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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Mogadishu suicide bomber kills at least 17 in police academy attack 

Al Shabab militants admit to carrying out the attack in the Somali capital

Somali officers are seen on the road leading to the site of a suicide bomb attack at a police academy in the capital, Mogadishu, on December 14, 2017. Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP
Somali officers are seen on the road leading to the site of a suicide bomb attack at a police academy in the capital, Mogadishu, on December 14, 2017. Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP

An Islamic extremist suicide bomber disguised as a police officer killed at least 17 and injured 20 at a police training school in Mogadishu capital on Thursday. The Al Shabab extremist group, which is based in Somalia, claimed responsibility.

Police spokesman Colonel Mohamud Aden said the attacker infiltrated the General Kahiye Police Training Academy with explosives strapped round his torso and struck as officers were gathering for morning exercises. They were rehearsing for Somalia's Police Day celebrations scheduled for December 20..

The bomber walked into the police academy undetected and joined a long line of officers in the rehearsal parade before he detonated the explosives under his sportswear.

"He detonated his bomb vest having realised that his presence had drawn suspicion among officers in the queue," said Captain Mohamed Hussein.

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Police officer Farah Omar, who was at the scene at the time of the blast, said the bomber targeted a spot where dozens of soldiers had gathered.

"He wanted to inflict maximum damage," he said.

Al Shabab, which is allied to al Qaeda, has become the most dangerous extremist group in Africa, carrying out frequent bombings and attacks against hotels, checkpoints and other high-profile areas of the Somali capital. It was blamed for the massive lorry bombing that killed 512 people in the capital in October. - making it one of the deadliest attacks since September 11 in New York. - and is now increasingly targeted by the US military after the Trump administration early this year approved more airstrikes and other action against the group.

The US has carried out at least 32 drone strikes this year against Al Shabab and a small but growing number of fighters linked to ISIL, many of them defectors from Al Shabab. Earlier this week, a drone strike against an Al Shabab vehicle carrying explosives prevented an "imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu," according to US Africa Command.

Al Shabab is waging an insurgency against the UN-backed government and its African Union allies in a bid to topple the weak administration.

The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and have since been steadily losing territory to the combined forces of African Union peacekeepers and Somali security forces.