Nine people, including senior regional officials, have been killed in two bomb attacks in Beledweyne in central Somalia, police officials said.
“The initial information we have received confirms the death of nine people,” including state ministers and commissioners, Mohamed Moalim Ali, a local police commander, said on Monday.
He added that at least 10 others were injured in the twin bomb attacks, which were claimed by the al-Shabab terrorist group.
Moalim Ali said the casualties came after two cars loaded with explosives were detonated about five minutes apart outside district headquarters in Beledweyne.
According to police, the state’s health minister and a deputy district commissioner were among the dead.
Beledweyne lies about 300 kilometers (200 miles) north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
Witnesses said a smaller blast was followed by a massive second explosion.
“The explosion was huge, and it destroyed most buildings” nearby, said Mohamud Addow, who witnessed the attack, adding, “I saw several people rushed to hospital and some dead bodies… some were unrecognizable.”
Al-Shabab, which is a terrorist offshoot of al-Qaeda, has been fighting Somalia’s government for 15 years.
“Top al-Shabab leader killed in joint operation”
In another development on Monday, the Somali government said a top al-Shabab terrorist, who had a three-million-dollar US bounty on his head, has been killed in a joint airstrike in the southern part of the country.
The Somali Ministry of Information said in a statement that the drone strike was launched by the army and international security partners on October 1, killing Abdullahi Yare near the coastal town of Haramka.
“This leader… was the head preacher of the group and one of the most notorious members of the Shabab group,” it said, adding, “He was the former head of the Shura council and the group’s director for finances.”
A co-founder of al-Shabab, Yare was believed to be next in line to take over the leadership of the group moved from its ailing chief Ahmed Diriye, the ministry added.
Yare was one of seven leaders named by the United States on its most-wanted list in 2012. Washington offered three million dollars for his capture.
The announcement of the strike came weeks after Somalia’s recently elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud vowed to stage an all-out war on militant groups, following a string of deadly attacks.