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At Least 7 Dead in Somalia After Al-Shabab Attacks

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Police officers work in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 23, 2022, in this still image obtained from a social media video. (Twitter/@Hajishire/via Reuters)

At least seven people were killed in two attacks Wednesday, with the militant group al-Shabab claiming responsibility for both, police in Somalia said.

At least six people are dead after two gunmen attacked Mogadishu's heavily guarded international airport. The dead include a Somali national and five foreigners, according to police.

Two gunmen were killed by security forces, according to police spokesman Major Abdifatah Aden Hassan.

Hassan said one of the foreigners was a soldier with the African Union peacekeeping mission AMISOM. He said four others were trainers helping the Somali government with explosives training.

The al-Shabab militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hassan told VOA that two men attacked the Marine gate of the airport Wednesday afternoon and were "confronted" by security forces.

The airport hosts the headquarters of the AMISOM and most of the foreign diplomats in Mogadishu.

Smoke billows from shipping containers near the Adan Abdulle International Airport international in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 23, 2022.
Smoke billows from shipping containers near the Adan Abdulle International Airport international in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 23, 2022.

Witnesses and security officials said the shooting took place on the eastern side of the airport, where many shops are located.

A security official who requested not to be identified because he is not allowed to speak with media told VOA the militants used small arms and hand grenades. He said at least three police personnel were injured in the attack.

Al-Shabab said its fighters shot several people and set buildings on fire. A VOA reporter in Mogadishu saw smoke rising from the area of the confrontation in the airport.

Al-Shabab has attacked the airport several times since 2009, killing dozens.

Later Wednesday, a Somali female lawmaker was among several people who were killed in two explosions in the central Somali town of Beledweyne, witnesses said.

FILE - Somali lawmaker Amina Mohamed Abdi speaks during a Reuters interview at her home in Mogadishu, Somalia, Dec. 2, 2020.
FILE - Somali lawmaker Amina Mohamed Abdi speaks during a Reuters interview at her home in Mogadishu, Somalia, Dec. 2, 2020.

Amina Mohamed Abdi was campaigning for reelection in her constituency.

There are conflicting reports about the explosion. According to one account, a suicide bomber ran toward her and detonated a vest, but a second account says the explosion was from a device planted at the scene.

As the wounded were evacuated, a second explosion went off. Residents say they expect the death toll to increase.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed sent condolences to Abdi's family, saying she was martyred by "merciless terrorists."

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for this attack as well.

Gen. Stephen Townsend, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), told VOA in an exclusive interview last week that al-Shabab remains the "greatest threat" on the continent and has "enjoyed great freedom of movement throughout Somalia" over the last year.

"They have grown bigger, stronger and bolder," Townsend said.


The head of AFRICOM also said he suspects the al-Shabab terror group in Somalia may now have the capability to strike Americans outside of Africa, including in the United States.

"I suspect that they do. That's not widely accepted in Washington or in the intel community, but my instincts as a commander are that they do," he told VOA.

In late 2020, then-President Donald Trump ordered most of the 800 U.S. troops out of Somalia in one of his last foreign policy moves in office. In the roughly 15 months since then, U.S. forces have continued to "commute to work," flying in and out of Somalia for missions while leaving fewer than 100 troops in the war-torn country.

"I think it's inefficient, it's certainly less effective. We're not there long enough to get momentum, and then we start over," he told VOA, adding that it also increases the risk to U.S. troops who must reestablish security each time they move in and out.

Townsend told VOA that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has provided his advice to the White House and is giving administration leaders the "time and space to make their decisions."

VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report from the Pentagon.

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