Explosion in Somalia near school kills 5; Al-Shabab claims responsibility

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – A massive explosion outside a school in the Somali capital on Thursday killed at least eight people, including students, witnesses said. The extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The al-Qaida-linked group controls much of rural Somalia and continues to frustrate efforts to rebuild the Horn of Africa nation after three decades of conflict.

The explosion created a plume of smoke above a busy area of ​​Mogadishu during the morning rush hour. The explosion destroyed part of the school, and emergency workers were peering through the collapsed beams and wooden benches.

Police spokesman Abdifatah Adam Hassan said eight people were killed and 17 others injured.

“This is a tragedy,” said Abdulkadir Adan of the Amin ambulance service, taking people to the hospital.

Fewer casualties are likely as of Thursday as part of a weekend in Somalia, an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

Al-Shabab in a statement on its Andalus radio station said it targeted Western officials being escorted by an African Union peacekeeping convoy. But one witness, Hassan Ali, told the AP that a private security company was escorting officials and said he saw four security officers injured.

The attack comes as Somalia faces big questions about its political and security future. The AU peacekeeping force is intended to be withdrawn from the country, but its mission could be extended amid concerns that Somali forces are not ready to assume security responsibilities. Earlier this year, the US said the withdrawal of troops from Somalia was complete.

A long-delayed presidential vote was scheduled to take place in February but now looks set to be held next year.


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