Somali officials say a suicide bomber has killed at least 18 police officers and wounded 15 others at the main police training facility in the capital, Mogadishu.
The acting police commissioner, Gen. Mukhtar Husein Afrah, said the attacker entered the grounds of the General Kahiye Police Academy undetected.
“A man disguised as a police officer has managed to sneak through makeshift tea restaurants opposite to the academy compound," the commissioner told reporters.
He said the incident happened during a rehearsal for a parade commemorating the 74th anniversary of Somalia's national police force.
“A young-looking man in police uniform rushed towards us. We thought he was one of us, but immediately he blew himself up,” a police officer told VOA on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “I saw the dead bodies of at least 18 police officers.”
“Most of us were already in the line to start our rehearsal" at the time of the attack, said another officer who sustained injuries to both legs.
Militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility, claiming it killed 27 officers.
Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire condemned the suicide bombing.
“I send my condolences to the families of the fallen police officers and wish quick recovery for those injured,” said Khaire in a statement from his office. “This would never divert us from continuing our efforts towards reconstruction, stabilization and the rule of law, and turning Somalia into a place where its people live in peace and dignity.”
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab controlled Mogadishu until 2011, when it was driven out by African Union peacekeepers and Somali security forces. The group has been active in Somalia, trying to overthrow the government and install a strict form of Islam. It has deployed bomb attacks against government, military and civilian targets.