A suicide bomber has killed at least 15 new recruits and wounded more than 20 at an army training camp in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
“We have received 15 dead bodies from today’s blast, some of them had shrapnel wounds and all of them were young men approximately between 20 and 27 years of age,” said a Madina hospital mortuary employee.
The attack is the deadliest in the Somali capital in 18 months.
Eyewitness Mohamed Adan, an army officer at the base said the bomber had slipped in among the recruits queueing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp when the explosion occurred.
No group has said it was behind the attack, but military and police facilities are a common target for Islamist militant group Al-Shabab.
Relatives of some of those caught up in the attack gathered outside the hospital where casualties were being treated.
“My son is dead. I have seen with my eyes. Many boys perished,” Reuters quotes one woman as saying. “They were asked to come for recruitment and then bombed.”
Army recruit Ahmed Ali told Reuters that the camp was “overcrowded with new recruits and soldiers when the blast occurred”.
Somalia has been mired in interlocking crises for the last three decades, with repeated bouts of civil war, clan conflict, Islamist insurgency, famine, and political instability.
Al-Shabaab rose to prominence in 2006. Despite the long deployment of African Union peacekeepers, it remains a potent force even though it has lost much of the territory it once controlled.
The militant group is fighting for control of the country against the UN-backed government in Mogadishu.
On Tuesday, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a nearby Turkish military training facility known as Camp Turksom, around 600 metres away, but there was no evidence of an attack having taken place there.
That base was, however, the target of a similar but botched attack in June 2020 when a suicide bomber attempted to conceal himself among recruits before being discovered and shot dead, reports Nigeria’s Punch.
Even the African Union peacekeeping force (Amisom), keeps running into trouble in the chaotic country, say media sources.
Several Human Rights Watch reports document how Amisom soldiers have abused their positions of power to prey on the city’s most vulnerable women and girls by committing acts of rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
But the involvement of Amisom soldiers has largely been overlooked, including by the mission’s leadership and international donors.