Al-Shabaab suicide bombing near Somalia's presidential palace kills 3
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Three civilians died instantly on Wednesday at a busy restaurant near Somalia's presidential palace in Mogadishu, police said, in yet another attack that targeted security forces in the restless capital, Mogadishu.
Wearing an explosive vest, the suspected Al-Shabaab suicide bomber detonated himself inside the small but crowded restaurant, killing three innocent civilians. He also died on spot, officials said.
The attacker, whose identity could not be immediately established, walked into the restaurant, took a seat alongside other customers before detonating the explosives which were wrapped around his waist, witnesses said.
Passersby scampered for safety as several customers within the restaurant suffered severe injuries as authorities rushed to the scene to activate search and rescue mission, police added.
The attack, officials said, took place near the old Bar Bulsho eatery which is almost adjacent to Somalia Parliament. Police secured the scene and blocked access for civilians as they combed the area.
Despite it's proximity to parliament, some witnesses claimed, the restaurant is not frequented by politicians. Instead, security forces and soldiers who man the capital take meals sometimes at credit in it.
For some time now, Al-Shabaab militants have been targeting security forces and politicians, although their raids have often claimed many lives of civilians especially in the capital, Mogadishu.
The site of Wednesday attack is also located near Sayidka junction in Mogadishu, which is also a soft target by the militants, who have in recent weeks demolished CCTV cameras within Mogadishu, to minimize crackdown against them.
Through their friendly media outlets, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility of the attack, saying that one of their fighters "detonated explosive vest" where SNA troops were "chewing khat" near Parliament.
According to them, the attack left nine government soldiers dead and 24 others injured, BBC Somali service reported, although the group did not deny or admit killing innocent civilians.
In December last year, the group activated a truck-laden with explosives, killing over 90 people, among them 20 police officers and two Turkish contractors, officials said.
But in a statement, the group "expressed sympathy" for killing innocent civilians, insisting that the suicide bomber targeted a Turkish convoy near Afgoye junction in Mogadishu.
Later, there were reports that the attack precipitated to the fallout between the group leader Ahmed Omar and two militants; Bashir Qorgab and Mahad Karate, who would later be expelled. Qorgab died in a US drone attack in February.
Mogadishu had enjoyed relative peace for several months now, although the militants have often waged sporadic attacks. There are reports that the militants are also collecting taxes from businesses, a claim which finance minister Abdirahman Baileh Duale admitted.
Recently, the militants lost grip of Janaale town in Lower Shebelle, in which they suffered heavy casualties. SNA troops have since taken over the agricultural-rich town, which was the hub of Zakat for the militants.
There are currently about 7,000 active Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia with most of them concentrating in central and southern parts of the country, although they have significantly been degraded by allied forces.
SNA troops are expected to take full control of security operations in Somalia from next year when AMISOM forces exit the ravaged nation, which has struggled to establish a functional government for three decades.