NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A car bomb exploded at the gates of a military base in Somalia’s capital Saturday, killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 14 others, with the toll expected to rise, police said.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group quickly claimed responsibility via its radio arm, Andalus. The group often targets military sites in Mogadishu and controls large parts of southern and central Somalia, with little sign of being hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Police Capt. Mohamed Hussein shared the attack’s toll with The Associated Press, and Col. Ahmed Muse said the bomber struck the 12th April Army Brigade base near the newly reopened sports stadium in Warta-Nabadda district.
The stadium’s reopening had been celebrated by Somalia’s president and others as a sign of the Horn of Africa nation’s attempts to rebuild from three decades of conflict and chaos — though mortar blasts outside sent fans ducking for cover.
Al-Shabab has been the target of a growing number of U.S. military airstrikes under President Donald Trump’s administration, with at least 63 strikes carried out last year alone.
But the Somalia-based extremist group has been resilient, recently improving its ability to build explosives and supporting its deadly work by taxing travelers along major routes in the country and extorting businesses.
While Somalis and returnees from the country’s diaspora continue to invest in renewal, the insecurity poses a daily threat and complicates political tensions.
When the prime minister was ousted in a parliament vote of no confidence last month, lack of sufficient progress in improving security was cited — along with disagreements over the timing of a crucial national election set for early next year.
Last month’s vote came just days after the president and regional governments, which have had a tense relationship, had agreed to hold a timely election. Somalia had aimed to hold its first one-person-one-vote in 50 years, but that prospect is fading.
How such a vote can be held in areas under the sway of al-Shabab remains unclear.