Blast at Somali khat market


An explosion killed at least five people and wounded 10 in a market for the stimulant leaf khat in southern Somalia, police and residents said.

The blast, the cause of which was not immediately clear, occurred in the busy market of Wanlaweyn in Lower Shabelle region, north-west of Mogadishu.

Given Wanlaweyn’s lack of hospitals able to take in multiple casualties, residents took many of the wounded to their homes after the afternoon blast near a busy cluster of khat kiosks.

Police were investigating whether the explosion was caused by a planted bomb or by a suicide bomber.
“The blast at the khat kiosks killed at least five civilians and injured others including soldiers. We are investigating whether there are more casualties and the cause of the blast,” police Captain Farah Ismail told Reuters.
“The death toll may rise,” he added.

Residents said the kiosks were busy with soldiers buying khat. “I counted five dead people, including two shoe shiners, a mother who sold khat and two customers. There were 10 other injured civilians,” shopkeeper Ahmed Mohamud told Reuters.
“I also saw several soldiers in uniform being transported from the blast scene but could not confirm whether they were dead or wounded.”

It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast.

In past incidents, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militant group has claimed responsibility.

Al Shabaab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s central government and establish its own rule based on its interpretation of Islamic law.

Since being pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011, the group has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns. But it retains a strong presence in regions outside the capital.