Car bomb blast in Somali capital
MOGADISHU, Somalia – A car bomb went off on Saturday, March 15, in central Mogadishu near a hotel popular with government officials and businessmen, injuring at least one person, police and witnesses said.
"There was a car bomb explosion near the rear gate of the Maka Al Mukarama hotel. It seems that the car was parked there loaded with explosives but we are still investigating casualties", police officer Mohamed Mire told Agence France-Presse .
Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that casualties were carried from the scene of the blast, but it was not clear if they were injured or dead.
Police confirmed at least one person was injured in the blast, which appeared to target the hotel, popular with government officials and businessmen who have returned home after years abroad.
"It was a really big explosion and the street was busy when it happened," said Hussein Issa, who witnessed the blast.
The hotel was hit by a car bomb in November that left several people dead and the area around the hotel has also been targeted several times recently.
In February alone, major attacks in Mogadishu have included a car bomb at the gates of the airport, a major suicide attack on the presidential palace and a car bombing on a cafe close to the intelligence headquarters.
No party has so far claimed responsibility but similar attacks in the past have been claimed by the Shebab, the Al-Qaeda-linked group which African Union troops are battling in Somalia.
In the latest advance against the Shebab, Somali government forces backed by African Union troops on Thursday captured the small town of Buula Burde, in the southern Hiran region bordering Ethiopia.
Security situation 'deteriorated'
News of Saturday's car bomb sparked angry comments on Twitter that the army should concentrate on completely securing Mogadishu rather than on fighting the Islamists elsewhere in the country.
Hardline Shebab insurgents once controlled most of southern and central Somalia but withdrew from fixed positions in Mogadishu two years ago.
However, guerrilla units stage regular deadly attacks in the capital, and also claimed responsibility for last year's deadly attack in neighbouring Kenya, when commandos stormed the upmarket Westgate mall, shooting shoppers and hurling grenades.
Government and AU troops have also come under repeated hit-and-run attacks in rural areas surrounding the settlements they capture.
After a series of sweeping victories in 2012, the AU force AMSIOM had remained largely static, hampered by limited troops and air power.
But the UN-mandated force launched a new offensive earlier this month against the Islamist fighters, after Ethiopian soldiers joined to push troop numbers to some 22,000.
The UN's envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, this week told the Security Council the offensive would be "the most significant and geographically extensive military advance" since AMISOM started operations in 2007.But Kay also warned the security situation in the capital Mogadishu had "deteriorated" in the last three months.
Recent Shebab attacks in the capital have targeted key areas of government or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities that they are winning the war against them. – Rappler.com