MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Two car bomb blasts rocked Somalia’s capital on Friday evening, followed by gunfire, police said, and an ambulance service said at least 18 people had been killed.
The explosions shattered a months-long period of calm in Mogadishu, which is often the target of attacks by the al-Shabab extremist group. They also came a day after Somalia’s interior minister warned of an explosives-laden vehicle somewhere in the capital.
The first blast, apparently caused by a suicide car bomber, occurred near Somalia’s intelligence headquarters, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press.
He said the second blast occurred near parliament’s headquarters, where security forces were engaged with gunmen thought to be trying to attack the presidential palace. The vehicle had tried to speed through a checkpoint close to parliament headquarters, Hussein said.
The Aamin Ambulance service ferried 40 bodies and scores of injured people after the blasts, director Abdirahman Abdulqadir told The Associated Press.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
AAMIN Ambulance transported Victims to Hospital caused car explosion near Fiyad Hotel the more information will notes as soon as possible pic.twitter.com/L4rTgi20Ek
— Aamin Ambulance (@AaminAmbulance) February 23, 2018
Mogadishu was the target of a truck bombing in October that killed 512 people in the deadliest attack in the Horn of Africa nation’s history. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. The Somalia-based al-Shabab was blamed.
Concerns have been high over plans to hand over Somalia’s security to the country’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.
On Thursday, the head of the AU force, Francisco Madeira, said the option of ending the pullout before 2021 “could bring about a serious risk of reversals that could derail the gains already made.” Somali forces, he said, are not yet ready.