Security officials have confirmed at least nine people killed and several others injured in simultaneous car bomb attacks in a town in central Somalia on Wednesday.
According to a local security official Abdullahi Adan, “The terrorists attacked Mahas town this morning using vehicles loaded with explosives.”
“They have targeted a civilian area and we have confirmed that nine people, all of them civilians, died in the two explosions.”
The attack, which has been blamed on Al-Shabaab jihadist fighters, occurred in the Hiran region of central Somalia, where a major offensive was launched last year against the Al-Qaeda-linked group.
Osman Nur, a police commander in Mahas, said, “The terrorists, after having (been) defeated, resorted to desperately targeting civilians, but this will not stop the will of the people to continue defeating them”.
He added “They have killed innocent civilians in the explosions”.
The blasts were said to have occurred near a restaurant not far from a district administration building in Mahas.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has declared “all-out war” against Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile internationally backed federal government for 15 years.
In July, local clan militias known as “Macawisley” launched a revolt against Al-Shabaab in parts of central Somalia, and Mohamud sent in troops in September to support the fight-back.
In recent months, the army and the militias have retaken swathes of territory in the central states of Galmudug and Hirshabelle (where Hiran is located) in an operation backed by US air strikes and an African Union (AU) force known as ATMIS.
However, the insurgents have frequently retaliated with bloody attacks, underlining their ability to strike at the heart of Somali towns and military installations despite the offensive.
Although forced out of the country’s main urban centres around 10 years ago, Al-Shabaab remains entrenched in vast swathes of rural central and southern Somalia.
On October 29, about 121 people in the capital Mogadishu were killed in two car bomb explosions at the education ministry, in the deadliest attack in the troubled Horn of Africa nation in five years.