At least seven people were killed Tuesday when a car bomb exploded outside a busy restaurant in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Reuters news agency reports militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.
A VOA reporter on the scene says two women were among those who died in the blast.
A doctor with the city’s ambulance service, Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Aden, told VOA’s Somali Service that another six people were wounded in the explosion, and says the death toll could rise.
The explosives-laden vehicle was parked right outside Banoda restaurant, opposite the Hotel Central, where a double suicide explosion in February claimed 20 lives. The targeted restaurant is popular with employees at Somalia’s presidential palace.
Somalia’s Constitution Minister Hussein Mohamud visited the scene of the blast and condemned al-Shabab’s disregard for civilian lives.
“The target today was a civilian restaurant,” he said. “It’s not a government institution. Those who lost their lives were women who made a living by selling fuel and food, and young innocent children.”
Authorities in Mogadishu have beefed up security this week, after the militant group al-Shabab increased its attacks on soft targets within the country and beyond.
The government now wants public support to counter possible attacks.
Al-Shabab leaders designated as terrorists
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has formally designated two al-Shabab leaders as terrorists. One is Ahmed Diriye, who became al-Shabab’s top leader after longtime chief Ahmed Godane was killed in a U.S. drone strike last September.
The other, Abdirahim Mohamed Warsame, played a key role in the Amniyat, the wing of al-Shabab that carried out the recent assault which killed nearly 150 students at a Kenyan university. Al-Shabab said that attack was revenge for Kenyan military action in neighboring Somalia.
A string of al-Shabab attacks
On Monday al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least seven people and wounded eight others in northern Somalia. The attacker Monday targeted a minibus carrying staffers of the U.N. Children’s Fund in the town of Garowe, as they traveled from their guest houses to their office.
A source close to the U.N. in Garowe told VOA that a man climbed on the bus and detonated explosives strapped to his waist.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud says the attack shows al-Shabab is not interested in the future of Somalia. He said that as the Somali National Army and the country’s international partners help bring Somalia back under control, al-Shabab is “lashing out, thrashing in its death throes.”
Local police said the dead in Monday’s attack included four foreigners, two Somalis and the bomber. A reporter for VOA in Garowe says the foreigners included two Kenyans, a Ugandan and one Afghan, all of whom worked for UNICEF.
That bombing was al-Shabab’s third deadly attack against international personnel in the span of three days. On Sunday, al-Shabab militants killed three African Union peacekeepers from Burundi and wounded several other soldiers in the southern town of Lego.
An attack Saturday on a Kenyan convoy killed three soldiers and wounded eight others while they were on a patrol in the Delbio area of Lower Jubba region.
Al-Shabab is attempting to overthrow the Somali government and establish an Islamic state.
Somalia’s government has placed bounties on the heads of 11 al-Shabab leaders, including the militant group’s top leader and alleged mastermind of the massacre in Kenya, Mohamed Mohamud, also known as Dulyadin.