WASHINGTON - At least 10 people were killed and 23 others were injured when a car bomb exploded Saturday on a busy Mogadishu street, according to witnesses and medical services.
The car bomb went off on Maka al-Mukarama Road, close to parliament as security forces tried stop and check it. The militant group al-Shabab immediately claimed responsibility.
"The car ignored warning shots and forcibly ran through a heavily secured checkpoint manned by the country’s presidential guards before it went off as we kept firing a volley of bullets," security official Aden Mohamed said after the attack.
A VOA reporter saw the bodies of at least seven people and witnessed many injured being transported by ambulances. Hospitals confirm that at least three other people have died from their wounds.
He said surrounding buildings were severely damaged or demolished by the blast, which sent huge plumes of smoke into the air.
In a separate incident, a car bomb went off near Mogadishu airport. Security officials at the airport said the car was stopped by soldiers manning an airport checkpoint and removed the driver before it went off.
“Our security officials foiled both car bombs and denied militants to reach their exact potential targets. We have taken the driver of the car that exploded near the airport into custody,” said Somali police spokeswoman General Zakiyo.
In the central Somali town of Galkacyo, 720 kilometers from Mogadishu, gunmen killed nine civilians in retaliation for the killing of a Somali National Security official, who was gunned down in the town on Friday night.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility of the killing of the official.
The incident has caused outrage in the town and southern Somali town of Baidoa, however, where four of those killed came from.
“It was inhumane and unacceptable, wicked action that innocent civilians are targeted for what they have nothing to do with,” said the president of South Western Regional State, Abdul Aziz Laftagareen.
He demanded that Galmudug Regional State immediately bring the suspects to justice.
“We are urging the authorities in the region to take action and bring those responsible for last night’s massacre and another in the region on Wednesday in which four civilians from our region, who were in the business of beekeeping, were killed as they were harvesting honeybees.”
Al-Shabab has been fighting for more than a decade to topple the government. The armed group gave up positions it once held in Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost many of its strongholds. It retains control of large rural swaths of the country, though, and continues to wage an armed rebellion against the Western-backed Somali government.