At least ten people were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber struck makeshift kiosks in the Somali capital, hitting hours after al Shabaab Islamist militants attacked two National Army bases outside the city, the government said.
“A suicide bomber blew up himself under trees where poor mothers sold tea, milk and (narcotic leaf) khat,” Information Ministry spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar told Reuters, adding that more people were wounded in the attack.
There was no immediate comment from the al Shabaab, which had earlier claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Bariire and Awdhigle army bases.
The army said earlier that there had been casualties on both sides in those attacks, but it was now in control.
The bases, located about 100 km southwest of Mogadishu, were struck by two explosions, witnesses said. A third explosion targeted a convoy of troops rushing to the bases from the capital after the attack, they added.
Militants from al Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, have waged years of attacks and levied tolls on trade in a campaign to introduce strict religious law.
Saturday’s attacks come amid heightened fears that the group could seek to exploit vulnerabilities created by failure to hold a parliamentary and presidential election, which was due in February.
Hussein Nur, a military officer, said the army lost “several” soldiers in the attack on the bases, without giving a precise number.
The army sent in reinforcements from other stations, who killed an unidentified number of attackers in the ensuing fight, he told Reuters.
The army had taken control of both bases and the surrounding area and “We are pursuing the militants in the surrounding jungle”, he said.
Al Shabaab said it had launched a vehicle-borne suicide bomb attack on the Bariire base while simultaneously attacking the nearby Awdhigle base with a car bomb and fighters, to prevent troops stationed there from reinforcing Bariire.
“We overran Bariire base, burnt three military vehicles and took two vehicles,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations, told Reuters, referring to a brief occupation of Bariire.
A third vehicle-borne explosive device hit a convoy of government troops racing from Mogadishu with reinforcements, he said. He also said there had been casualties on both sides in the attacks.