Galkayo Somalia
Galkayo Somalia

Abdiwahid Moalim Ishaq contributed to this report from Galkayo.


The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb that targeted military commanders in the central Somali town of Galkayo, killing at least eight people and wounding 55 others Saturday evening.  

Witnesses told VOA Somali that the vehicle exploded as the military officials were leaving a hotel to attend a reconciliation meeting.

Commander of Somali land forces Brigadier General Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir and commander of the 21st Division General Abdulaziz Abdullahi Qoje survived the attack.

Officials said four civilians and four soldiers were killed in the explosion.

"At about 8:30pm last night this car you see its remains exploded, it was targeting military vehicles," says the Mayor of Galkayo’s southern half Hersi Yusuf Barre. "There is a significant casualties, a lot of civilians were hurt."

Residents started cleaning up the site and collected the body of the suicide bomber for burial.

A doctor at Galkayo hospital Mohamed Abdi Ahmed told VOA Somali some of the injured are in serious condition.

FILE - An ambulance carrying an injured person from an attack by al-Shabab gunmen on a hotel near the presidential residence arrives to the Shaafi hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Dec. 10, 2019.

It is the second major attack by al-Shabab this month in Somalia. A complex attack on a Mogadishu hotel on December 10 killed five people.

US airstrikes

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has conducted a record number of attacks against al-Shabab and pro-Islamic militant groups in Somalia this year.

With just few days left in 2019, the U.S. military has carried out 60 airstrikes, the vast majority of them against al-Shabab militants. Last year, the U.S. conducted 47 strikes and more than 30 the previous year.

The 60th strike this year occurred on December 16 in Dujuma village area in Middle Jubba region, killing one al-Shabab militant.