MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Two car bomb explosions at the education ministry in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu killed or wounded scores of people on Saturday, police and the state news agency said.
Authorities said the Islamist group al Shabaab carried out the attack, which they said had targeted the education ministry, an intersection and a school.
“At 2:00 p.m. al-Shabaab terrorists carried out two explosions targeting civilians, including children, women and the elderly,” police spokesman Sadiq Doodishe said.
Doodishe said police would give the death toll and number of injured later. State news agency SONNA, said the blasts had caused “scores of civilian casualties including independent journalist Mohamed Isse Kona”.
The Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) confirmed that Kona, a TV reporter, had been killed.
The first explosion hit the ministry then the second blast occurred as ambulances arrived and people gathered to help the victims, police officer Nur Farah told Reuters.
Another police officer guarding the ministry, who gave his name as Hassan, told Reuters he saw at least 12 bodies and more than 20 people wounded.
A Reuters journalist near the blast site said the two explosions occurred within minutes of each other and smashed windows in the vicinity. Blood from victims of the blasts covered the tarmac just outside the building, he said.
Moments after the blasts a large plume of smoke rose over the site.
“The second blast burnt our ambulance as we came to transport the casualties from the first blast,” Abdikadir Abdirahman of the Aamin Ambulance Service told Reuters.
A driver and a first aid worker had been injured in the blast, he said.
The attack took place at the same point where Somalia’s largest bombing took place the same month in 2017.
In that bombing, which killed more than 500 people, a truck bomb exploded outside a busy hotel at the K5 intersection which is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks.
Al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab, which has been fighting in Somalia for more than a decade, is seeking to topple the central government and establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of sharia law.
The group uses a campaign of bombings both in Somalia and elsewhere and targets have included military installation as well as hotels, shopping centres, and busy traffic centres.
In August at least 20 people were killed and dozens injured when al Shabaab militants stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, triggering a 30-hour stand-off with security forces before the siege was finally ended.
Somalia’s new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, with support from the United States and allied local militias has launched an offensive against the group although results have been limited.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Alison Williams and Angus MacSwan)