MOGADISHU: At least eight Somali government troops were killed when a remote-controlled bomb hit their vehicle in Mogadishu, officials said Thursday, highlighting lingering security risks less than two weeks before the U.N.-backed government’s mandate ends.
Somalia’s Islamist Al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack Wednesday evening.
Government troops and African Union peacekeepers say they have tightened security before a presidential election on Aug. 20 when the transitional government will be dissolved.
A combined force including Kenyan, Burundian, Ethiopian and Djiboutian troops is planning an offensive on Kismayu, Somalia’s second biggest city and a hub for Al-Shabaab, before then.
Residents said the military vehicle had been destroyed by a roadside bomb in the Huriwaa district.
“A bomb killed eight soldiers and completely destroyed their pickup. Only two, including the driver, survived with injuries,” Mohammad Abdikadir, a senior police officer, told Reuters.
Although Somali troops and peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) drove Al-Shabaab fighters from most of Mogadishu in August 2011, the latest bombing shows the militants can still stage deadly attacks in the capital.
Al-Shabaab has threatened more attacks as Somalia’s three top government officials and a dozen other politicians campaigning for the presidency. Last week the government foiled two would-be suicide bombers who targeted a conference hall where delegates approved a draft constitution.
“We destroyed the government pickup yesterday,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, military spokesman for Al-Shabaab, told Reuters. “AMISOM and government forces will never sleep or relax. More explosions await them.”