At least seven people were killed and 11 injured in southwestern Somalia on Friday in a bomb blast that targeted a crowded market, according to municipal officials.
The blast occurred in the town of Bardale, located some 60 kilometers west of Baidoa, the provincial capital of Bay region.
“The explosive device was planted somewhere in the market, and it exploded this morning as shoppers, mainly people from rural areas crowded at the market,” Mohamed Isaq Ara’ase, the town’s district commissioner, told VOA.
"A lot of people from the nearby villages and rural areas—including consumers of the narcotic khat—often crowd this market every Friday to shop, but unfortunately this morning it was a scene of blood and chaos,” said one eyewitness who spoke to VOA’s Somali Service on condition of anonymity.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Bardale District Commissioner Mohamed Isaq Ara’ase accused Somali terrorist group al-Shabab of being behind the attack.
“The blast killed at least seven civilians and injured 11 others,” said Ara’ase. “Al-Shabab militants are apparently behind it, and they did it to avenge civilians for the continuous government troops’ offensive on their hideouts in the region.”
This latest blast comes as the Horn of African nation has concluded its indirect elections for the 54 senators in the upper house of the federal parliament, including 14 women, and is gearing up its efforts to elect 275 members of the lower house before the end of the year.
In July, al-Shabab threatened to disrupt the upcoming elections and vowed to attack electoral delegates choosing members of parliament.
On Wednesday, James Swan, head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia, said nearly 1,000 civilians have been killed or injured in armed conflict so far this year in Somalia, with the group al-Shabab responsible for some two-thirds of civilian casualties.
VOA Somali reporter Mukhtar Atosh contributed from Baidoa.