Five civilians, including a child, were killed when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a tea shop in Mogadishu, Somalia’s police have said.
“Around 7pm in the evening, a suicide bomber detonated himself at a tea shop frequented by the youth,” police spokesman Sadiq Dudishe said. “Six people, four of them youth, a child, and the suicide bomber died in the blast. Four others were wounded.”
A witness said the bomber walked into a crowd who were drinking tea in an open area near a police station. “I was getting out of a restaurant just a few hundred metres away from where the blast occurred. I was shocked by the blast and it was huge. I saw people rushing to the scene and wounded being carried,” said Ali Mohamed.
“Police cordoned off the area, but I saw several dead bodies carried away in an ambulance. They were young men, two of them from the neighbourhood where I live,” he added.
Earlier on Saturday, Al-Shabaab Islamist fighters attacked two key military bases, detonating car bombs at both locations before engaging in an intense gun battle, an army official and witnesses said.
The attacks happened in the southern region of Lower Shabelle on bases in the towns of Awdheegle and Bariire, 30km (17 miles) apart. Both are forward operating bases in the fight against the Islamist group.
“The assailants tried to attack, but thanks to our brave soldiers, who knew about the tricks of the assailants, the militants were defeated and their wounded and dead bodies are strewn around,” army chief General Odowa Yusuf Rage told reporters. “The forces are still pursuing the rest of the attackers and the Somali army is in control of the both contested locations.”
Witnesses in Awdheegle – home to the larger of the two bases – said Somali troops had repelled the militants after around an hour of heavy fighting.
“Shabaab gunmen used a vehicle loaded with explosives to launch the attack, but they failed to enter the camp after nearly an hour of exchanging machine gun fire with the Somali troops,” town resident Mohamed Ali said. “I saw several dead bodies of the Shabab gunmen near the camp where the fighting occurred. The Somali soldiers paraded these bodies after the fighting.”
In Bariire, a car bomb was also detonated before heavily armed gunmen stormed the base. “We heard a heavy explosion caused by a suicide bomber ramming a car at the entrance to the base and a heavy exchange of gunfire followed,” said resident Abdirahim Malin.
“A few minutes later, the militant fighters managed to enter the camp and torched some military supplies belonging to the Somali army.”
Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a long insurgency to unseat the internationally backed government in Mogadishu, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on a pro-Shabaab website. The group claimed it had killed dozens of people and captured military vehicles and supplies.
Casualties are often difficult to establish from Al-Shabaab attacks in remote areas, especially when the military is targeted. The group was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but still control swaths of territory from where they plan and launch frequent, deadly strikes against government and civilian targets.