MOGADISHU, Somalia – A large explosion outside a school in Somalia’s capital on Thursday has killed at least five people, including students, a witness said. The extremist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
The al-Qaeda-linked group controls large parts of Somalia’s countryside and continues to frustrate efforts to rebuild the nation’s Horn of Africa after three decades of conflict.
The blast sent a plume of smoke above a lively part of Mogadishu during the morning rush hour.
Abdulkadir Adan of Amin Ambulance Service confirmed the five deaths to the Associated Press, and the service said at least 15 injured people were taken to hospital.
“This is a tragedy,” he said.
Photos show the blown-up part of the school, with rescue workers looking through the collapsed rafters and wooden benches.
Al-Shabab said in a statement from its Andalusian radio that it was targeting Western officials escorted by the African Union peacekeeping convoy. But a witness, Hassan Ali, told the Associated Press that a private security company was escorting officials and said he saw four of the security personnel injured.
The attack came as Somalia faces major questions about its political and security future. The AU’s peacekeeping force was intended to withdraw from the country, but its mission could be extended with concerns that Somali forces are not ready to take responsibility for security. The United States said earlier this year that its troops’ withdrawal from Somalia was complete.
A long-delayed presidential vote was supposed to take place in February, but now it looks like it will be held next year.