Dozens killed in central Somalia car bombings

At least 35 people have been confirmed dead and several others wounded in simultaneous car bomb attacks in a town in central Somalia, according to security officials.

A senior police official told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that the death toll rose sharply from the 15 reported earlier in the day.

Security official Abdullahi Adan told the AFP news agency by phone on Wednesday that the “terrorists” attacked Mahas town using vehicles loaded with explosives.

Mahas district commissioner Mumin Mohamed Halane told state radio that one bomb targeted his house and the other hit the home of a federal lawmaker.

Abdullahi Osman, a shopkeeper in the town of Mahas, told Reuters news agency that he counted at least 15 dead people including soldiers, militiamen and civilians.

“Many houses were destroyed. Fragments of the bombs injured people far from the site. The death toll may rise.”

Al Shabab’s media office claimed responsibility in a statement, saying it had targeted “apostate militias and soldiers”.

The group put the number of dead at 87. Al Shabab often gives higher casualty figures than local officials and residents.

Witnesses said the blasts occurred near a restaurant not far from a district administration building.

“I saw the dead bodies of nine civilians including women and children, this was a horrible attack,” said one witness, Adan Hassan.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has declared “all-out war” against Al Shabab, which has been waging an insurgency against the internationally-backed federal government for 15 years.

Although forced out of the country’s main urban centres around 10 years ago, Al Shabab remains entrenched in vast swathes of rural central and southern Somalia. Mahas is at the center of the ongoing government offensive against the group.

The Somali army, together with local militias, recently opened a key supply route to Mahas after it had long been under siege.



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