At least eight people were killed and 23 wounded in a car bombing near a school in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Thursday, according to security officials.
Many students were among those injured. The bomb went off early morning during rush hour, triggering a plume of smoke that rose from the blast site amid gunfire.
Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, just days after an attack on Saturday that killed prominent Somali journalist Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled.
UN convoy targeted
The target of the bombing was a passing United Nations convoy, the group’s military spokesperson told news agency Reuters.
It was not immediately clear if any UN personnel were among those killed or injured in the huge blast.
"We counted eight dead people and 17 others including 13 students injured," police spokesman Abdifatah Aden Hassan told reporters.
The explosion, which took place in the heart of the capital, was so large that walls of the nearby Mucassar primary and secondary school collapsed and cars were left mangled.
"We were shaken by the blast pressure, then deafened by the gunfire that followed," Mohamed Hussein, a nurse at the nearby Osman Hospital, told the Reuters news agency. "Our hospital walls collapsed. Opposite us is a school that also collapsed. I do not know how many died."
Mogadishu's Aamin ambulance service evacuated at least 23 people who were injured in the blast.
Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the ambulance service, shared photos from the scene on Twitter, calling the bombing "a tragedy."
What is al-Shabab?
Al-Shabab is an al-Qaeda-linked extremist group that has been waging a violent insurgency against Somalia’s fragile government since 2007.
It has sought to overthrow the government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam's sharia law.
Al-Shabab controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by the Somali military and the African Union-mandated AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) force that help protect the government.
The group still holds territory in the countryside and frequently carries out bombings and gun assaults in Mogadishu and other cities.
It claimed two attacks in September that together killed 17 people.
adi/msh (AFP, Reuters)