Several dead after deadly car bomb blasts rock in Somali Capital

A Somali security officer cordons off the area after a previous car bomb blast in Mogadishu, on December 16, 2018.

The death toll from a double car bomb attack Saturday in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has risen to 15, a security official said.

Twenty others were injured, according to the official, Ibrahim Jama.

The blasts occurred in central Mogadishu, near the National Theatre, the presidential palace and the Daljirka Dahson monument. Plumes of smoke rose over the streets, and a heavy police presence was reported in the area.

Al-Shabaab, a militant group linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted on affiliated websites. A suicide bomber drove a car filled with explosives to the gate of the presidential palace and killed presidential guards, the statement said.

The mastermind behind the twin attack was detained by the country’s National Intelligence Agency, officials said on Twitter.

Senior journalist Awil Dahir Salad was among several staff members of London-based Universal Somali TV who were killed, according to the station.

The blasts are the latest in a series to hit the capital.

Somalia has been a regular focus of US counterterror efforts. US airstrikes targeting Al-Shabaab have killed 62 militants in the East African nation this month, US Africa Command said Monday.

The United States re-established a permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia at the start of December, citing the country’s progress in recent years. It had closed its embassy in Mogadishu in 1991.

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