WASHINGTON - A massive truck bomb exploded outside Mogadishu's new seaport Sunday morning, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens others.
The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast, which occurred in a parking lot near the entrance to Mogadishu's port, causing massive damage to the surrounding areas.
Mogadishu residents said the blast could be heard across the city, and pictures of black smoke from the scene were circulated on social media.
Abdifitah Omar Halane, Mogadishu’s regional administration spokesman told VOA's Somali Service that most of the victims were civilians.
“The blast occurred in a civilian place where poor mothers have tea shops, where the port workers buy breakfast and get ready to enter the port for the day-shift work.” Halane Said.
Mogadishu's seaport is run by Al-Bayrak, a Turkish company that has a 20-year agreement with the Somali government to upgrade and manage the operations of the port.
It is unclear if any of the Turkish nationals were hurt.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has condemned the blast and called on security forces and Somalis to cooperate to eliminate terrorist groups who are targeting civilians.
Also Sunday, residents reported that al-Shabab militants have taken over a Somali town on the Somali-Kenya border. Unconfirmed reports say Somali troops fled the town of El Wak and crossed into the border with Kenya.
El Wak is a strategic town near the border and is a supply route used by Kenyan troops fighting militants in Somalia under an African Union mandate.