Shabaab suicide bombing strikes near presidential palace

Site of the suicide bombing near the presidential palace today. (Source: Garowe Online)

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, claimed a suicide bombing in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu yesterday. The blast left at least 10 people dead just 150 meters from the presidential palace.

The jihadist group said on its Shahada News Agency Telegram channel that the suicide bombing targeted a “gathering of officers, officials, and government militias” at a checkpoint near the palace. Shabaab said 20 people were killed, however as jihadists like to exaggerate casualty totals, CNN has reported that at least 10 people were killed and 15 others were wounded.

The bombing came shortly after Somalia’s new prime minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, appointed a new cabinet. Shabaab has increased the frequency of attacks in Mogadishu since the country’s elections earlier this year. In the wake of Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, being sworn in, Shabaab threatened to escalate assaults in the capital.

Since the elections in early February, there has been a spate of car bombs in Mogadishu. On Feb. 19, a suicide car bomb killed at least 30 people at a market in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district. On Feb. 27, another suicide car bomb targeted Somali soldiers at a checkpoint just outside the city. On March 13, another car bomb was detonated near the Wehliye Hotel, killing at least 13. On that same day, Shabaab attempted to ram a minibus full of explosives through a military checkpoint, but the bus was stopped before reaching its target.

In January, before the elections, Shabaab perpetrated a suicide assault on the Dayah Hotel in Mogadishu. The attack, which included two suicide bombings, left at least 28 people dead near Somalia’s parliament building. Targeting popular hotels in Somalia’s capital is a common tactic of the jihadist group. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Shabaab suicide assault at Mogadishu hotel kills at least 28.]

In addition to car bombs, Shabaab has also initiated coordinated assaults and assassinations against public officials. Before yesterday’s suicide bombing, Shabaab militants also launched an assault on the Somali Defense Ministry headquarters in Mogadishu. Approximately 20 militants attacked the compound before it was repulsed. Earlier this month, a local government official was assassinated in the Yaqshid district, while last month, a former MP was killed outside his house in the Dharkenley district.

Attacks in Mogadishu serve as a reminder that the jihadist group retains the ability to strike in high-security areas. Since 2014, Shabaab has attacked the parliament, the president’s compound, and a high security intelligence headquarters. In June 2013, a Shabaab team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu; several UNDP employees were killed and the jihadist group briefly took over the compound. And in 2010, Shabaab was even able to launch a suicide assault on an African Union medical clinic in the Mogadishu airport.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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