Mogadishu, Somalia | AFP |
Twin suicide car bombs claimed by the Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab insurgent group wounded nine people Monday at the entrance to Mogadishu’s fortified airport and a nearby hotel, officials said.
The first blast occurred at the Medina Gate entrance to Mogadishu airport, home to the UN, aid agencies and foreign missions and contractors as well as the headquarters of the African Union military mission, AMISOM.
Soon afterwards another, larger vehicle exploded outside the Peace Hotel, popular with foreign visitors to Somalia.
The explosion took place soon after Uganda’s army chief Gen Katumba Wamala arraived in Somalia to visit the country’s troops, part of the AMISOM contingent.
Arrived this morning in Mogadishu with CDF Gen. Katumba Wamala to ‘rousing welcome’; suicide exploded a huge VBIED near gate to Airport 1/2
— Opiyo Oloya (@OpiyoOloya) January 2, 2017
— AMISOM (@amisomsomalia) January 2, 2017
— Francine Muyumba (@Muyumba) January 2, 2017
The blasts left a scene of destruction with rubble strewn across the road and some nearby villas all but collapsed, however there were no immediate reports of fatalities other than the bombers.
“The number of casualties was very minimal compared to the magnitude of the blast,” said Abudkadir Mohamed, a security officer, adding that “at least nine people were wounded” including two of the hotel’s security guards.
— Abdulaziz Billow Ali (@AbdulBillowAli) January 2, 2017
The Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued by its Anadalus Radio media arm.
“The Mujahedeen fighters carried out two suicide attacks one of them targeting a checkpoint alongside the road to Halane,” the statement said using the local name for the airport compound.
“This was to clear the way for another bomber who was driving a truck which targeted Peace Hotel.”
The Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu and regularly uses suicide bombers against government, military and civilians.
Mogadishu airport is a regular target but this is the first time the well-known and popular Peace Hotel has been attacked.
Somalia is in the midst of a drawn-out election process to choose a new government with most of the parliamentarians sworn in last week.