Monday, March 18, 2013
Islamist resurgence ... a member of the Somali security forces flees the site of the car bomb. Photo: AFP
MOGADISHU: At least 10 people have been killed in a suicide car bomb in the Somali capital claimed by Islamist insurgents, in one of the bloodiest attacks in war-ravaged Mogadishu in recent months.
Monday's attack comes a day after the Shebab insurgents recaptured the key town of Hudur in Somalia's southwest after Ethiopian troops who had held it since 2011 left, sparking concerns of a wider withdrawal that would leave peacekeeping forces overstretched.
The blast targeted and injured a top intelligence official, security sources said.
"Many have been killed, some of them were in a minibus that was hit by the blast," said Hassan Salad, who witnessed the explosion near the capital's National Theatre.
"This is a disaster; there is smoke and dead bodies thrown all around."
Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said 10 people were killed and 15 wounded "when a car bomber drove into a passenger bus".
Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab fighters boasted of the killings, saying they had targeted and wounded Mogadishu's intelligence chief, Khalif Ereg.
"Attacks against elements like him will continue until they are eliminated from the holy land of Somalia," al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP.
The blast and retaking of Hudur mark a major victory for al-Shabaab, who have been on the back foot in Somalia for several months, losing a string of towns to a 17,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force.
Hudur had been occupied by Ethiopian troops since late 2011, when they crossed into Somalia to attack al-Shabaab bases, shortly after Kenyan forces invaded Somalia from the far south.
While Kenyan troops have since joined the AU force, Ethiopian forces have remained separate, although they still collaborate with the mission.
The Ethiopian troops' exit from Hudur has sparked concern that they are planning a much wider withdrawal from the region that would play in the hands of al-Shabaab.