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Somalia blast draws strong condemnation


MOGADISHU, Somalia - A morning bomb blast that left at least 10 civilians dead and wounded over 13 others on Sunday morning near Mogadishu, the Somali capital has drawn strong condemnation from government opposition and the international community. 

A police officer said it's yet another deadly attack targeting public transport vehicles in the long chaotic Horn of Africa nation, and Sunday's incident which could raise questions about Somalia's preparedness in fighting terrorism.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends whose loved ones were massacred today by terrorists in Elasha Biyaha, near Mogadishu. This heinous act underlines the need for a unity of purpose to eradicate Al-Shabaab. My sincere condolences to the families" said former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in a Twitter post.

The roadside explosion took place in the vicinity of Hawa Abdi village, at least 20 kilometers northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, within the terror-prone Lower Shebelle region, officials said, adding that evacuation had been activated to save the wounded.

Hawa Abdi area attack is the worst targeting civilians in recent months. In December last year, a similar explosion within the busy streets of Mogadishu left about 90 people dead and several wounded, in an attack Somalia-based militants Al-Shabaab took responsibility.

Hussein Abdi Ali, a police officer working within the region, told Anadolu Agency that that roadside bomb blast left 10 people dead, adding that casualties could be hire given the critical conditions of the survivors.

"What we know so far is that the bomb blast was a landmine which targeted a minibus carrying civilians who were traveling from Mogadishu to the town of Wanlaweyn, killing at least 10 people, all of them civilians," Ali said.

The attack, he added, took place in Hawa Abdi outside the capital Mogadishu during the morning rush hours. Sunday is a working day in Somalia, a country that is predominantly Muslim and whose citizens prefer public transport due to abject poverty.

Ismail Mukhtar, the Somali government spokesman, confirmed the incident on Twitter, adding that the wounded people have since been ferried to Madina Hospital in the capital for treatment. He posted a photo of the badly dismembered vehicle.

"Death toll is expected to rise as some people sustained life-threatening injuries," he also said, adding that: "We have already lost ten people, around six of the survivors are critically injured, they have been rushed to the hospital for treatment.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but Somali-based al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab had claimed responsibility for the recent attacks in the horn of African country, with the latest being last week when they killed Somali National Army forces.

At Bala'd town in Middle Shebelle, a roadside explosion left nine soldiers dead last week, followed by another bomb blast which left five other soldiers dead in Lower Shebelle. The militants have been targeting security forces and to some extent, innocent civilians.

The last three months have been difficult for the Al-Shabaab due to sustained airstrikes and ground combats waged by SNA, AU forces, and the US Africa Command. The troops have been targeting Shebelle and Jubba regions where the militants control large swathes.

In March, a joint operation led to the liberation of Janaale, a strategic agricultural-rich town in Lower Shebelle. At least 140 militants were killed, 28 injured and 18 captured, Abdihamid Mohamed, the commander of the Danab force had told reporters.

Since then, the troops have intensified the onslaught, forcing the militants to flee from their hideouts. Attempts by Al-Shabaab on Barawe army base and the most recent at SNA's base in Dhobley were repulsed by the troops, a further manifestation of the group's dwindling fortunes.

But in response, Al-Shabaab has been waging small to large scale sporadic attacks using VBIEDs and IEDs, mostly planted in vehicles of their targets or along popular routes. The militants have refused to heed to ceasefire calls from the UN, which asked militants to focus on fighting COVID-19 pandemic.

The attack also comes just a few days after eight civilians mostly aid workers were found dead in the vicinity of Galoley village, an incident that triggered condemnation from members of the public and the international community. A commission of inquiry was formed to investigate the incident.

However, multiple reports indicate that the victims were murdered by SNA troops who had come under attack from Al-Shabaab militants. The federal government has not responded to the allegations.

For almost a decade now, civilians remain the most affected in frequent terror attacks, especially within Somalia. A report published last year by the UN indicates that over 4,000 innocent civilians have been killed in terror-related incidents since 2008 in Somalia.


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