Friday, February 23, 2018

Two car bombs explode in Somali capital killing 18 people

 MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Twin car bombs exploded in Somalia’s capital on Friday, killing 18 people and wounding 20 others, the city’s ambulance service said.

Shooting broke out near the president’s residence at the time of the blasts, police and ambulance services said.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attacks. Insurgents from al Shabaab have claimed responsibility for previous bombings and gun attacks in the capital.

The group, which is linked to al Qaeda, wants to overthrow the Somali government and impose it own harsh interpretation of Islamic law. It has killed hundreds of civilians across East Africa and thousands of Somalis in a decade-long insurgency.

“So far we carried 18 dead people and 20 others injured from the blasts tonight,” Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of Amin ambulances, told Reuters.

A big cloud of smoke rose near the palace and gunfire continued near the president’s residence, a Reuters witness said.

Police and witnesses said the second blast was a car bomb parked in front of a hotel away from the palace.

Police said the first car bomb went off after suspected militants breached a checkpoint near the president’s residence by shooting at security personnel at the checkpoint.

“The militants got off when they neared the palace, the suicide car bomb exploded outside the palace where there were many military soldiers who guarded the street adjacent to the palace,” Major Omar Abdullahi told Reuters.

The streets around the palace and near the new hotel were surrounded by security forces who denied access to ambulances and reporters.

In October, more than 500 people were killed in twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu. The bomb attacks were the deadliest since al Shabaab began an insurgency in 2007. Al Shabaab did not claim responsibility for that incident.