Mogadishu, Somalia | AFP | A minibus hit a landmine in Somalia on Thursday, killing 19 people just hours after the new president of the troubled nation declared fresh war against Al-Shabaab militants.
The minibus was travelling in the southern Lower Shebelle region when it hit the landmine near the village of Golweyn, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the capital Mogadishu in an area hotly contested between the Shabaab and government and African Union troops.
“The number of people who died in the blast reached, 19 including women and children, and several others were wounded,” Ibrahim Adam Najah, the governor of Lower Shebelle, told local media.
Local police official Ibrahim Isack told AFP that “the minibus was transporting 21 people when it ran over the landmine and most of them died in the blast,” he said.
“The mine was planted by the violent terrorists,” said Isack, referring to the Shabaab group, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.
Mohamed Abdulahi, a witness from a nearby village, told AFP by telephone that he had seen “the dead bodies of more than ten people including three children and seven women, their bodies were shattered by the blast.”
“This incident is horrible and everybody is shocked, innocent civilians blown up while travelling to their houses,” added Abdulahi Moalim Abdi, an elder from Golweyn.
The blast came shortly after Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed pledged a new war against the Shabaab (“youth” in Arabic), which has terrorised the nation for over a decade.
“I am announcing a state of war in the country and call on the public to stand with the national army to help fight terrorists,” the president, widely known by his nickname Farmajo, said at a press conference.
Farmajo, who took office in February, on Thursday replaced the heads of the army, police and national intelligence.
“We are very sorry for those kids who have been misled, and we are offering the Shabaab fighters an ultimatum of 60 days to surrender otherwise they will face the consequences,” he said.
“I also extend amnesty to the youth who have been misled with the wrong extremist ideas.”
Farmajo’s remarks came a day after a car bomb left seven dead in a restaurant in Mogadishu.
According to an AFP tally around 80 people have died in bomb attacks in the capital since January.
The Shabaab emerged out of a bitter insurgency fighting Ethiopia, whose troops entered Somalia in a US-backed invasion in 2006 to topple the Islamic Courts Union that was then controlling Mogadishu.
While they have lost large swathes of territory and were forced out of Mogadishu by African Union troops in 2011, the Shabaab continue to strike in the capital and countryside.