NAIROBI, Kenya – At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in a suicide blast in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Friday evening, authorities said, the second such attack to rock the city in weeks as the country is entering a crucial election season.
A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden jacket near a cafe near the famous Juba Hotel, which is in a strategic area housing government ministries and the intelligence headquarters. The cafe, frequented by members of the Somali security forces, was packed with customers when the attack took place, officials said.
The Somali government blamed the terrorist group Al Shabab, and the group itself took responsibility, saying it had targeted intelligence, police and military forces. Al Shabab claimed that the explosion killed at least 15 people and injured 22 others.
Somali security officials did not respond to multiple requests for information about the possibility that government agents were killed or injured in the attack.
“Once again, Al Shabaab has proven that its violence has no limits and that it will kill indiscriminately,” Somali Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism said said in a press release the Saturday. Al Shabab, the ministry added, strives “to cause pain, destruction and chaos.” These ideals have no place in a free Somalia.
The attack came just weeks after another Al Shabab suicide bomber attack a Somali army training camp run jointly with Turkish forces, killing at least 10 people and injuring 20 others.
In recent months, Al Shabab has stepped up its attacks as Somalia has been rocked by internal political strife, the withdrawal of most American troops and a pause in the US drone strikes that had targeted the group and its leaders.
The latest suicide bombing came just days after Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble announced a timetable for long-delayed elections, in a bid to address a possible political impasse that has at times escalated into deadly violence.
This political crisis began when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a former American citizen and bureaucrat, failed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in February as planned and then sought to extend his tenure by two years.
Under the current plan, revealed by Prime Minister Roble on Tuesday, elections for the Senate and Parliament will take place from mid-July to September, with the presidential election set for October 10. Somalia has not had direct elections for decades, with the elders of the clans. in the past, choose legislators who in turn chose the president.
Mr. Roble condemned the attack at the cafe, saying the Shababs were determined to harm innocent Somalis.
Al Shabab has in the past attacked busy intersections, restaurants and hotels – killing dozens of people at once and consolidate its reputation as the largest and most active global affiliate of Al Qaeda. To help fight the group, the Pentagon is weigh a plan to return dozens of soldiers to Somalia.