x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

‘There was chaos, smoke and human flesh’: witness to Mogadishu attack

A suicide bomber kills at least six people in an attack on the Somali prime minister's office.

MOGADISHU // At least six people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up amongst a group of security officials outside the Somali prime minister's office today.

"I saw the dead bodies of six people and several others were injured," said Abdukadir Ali, a Somali military official who stayed near the scene of the attack in central Mogadishu.

It is believed that many of those killed or wounded were soldiers or police.

"The bomber was sitting near a perimeter wall and detonated himself in the midst of a group of security forces," Mr Ali added. "There was chaos, smoke and pieces of human flesh."

Abdi Farah Shirdon Said, the prime minister, was in his office at the time when the attacker struck, officials in his office said, but he was not harmed by the blast.

"The area was closed down by the security forces... I saw several dead soldiers and others injured being rushed to hospital," said Mohamed Hussein, a witness.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Al Qaeda-linked Shabab insurgents have conducted a series of guerrilla-style attacks in the capital.

The insurgents have vowed to topple President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office in September after being chosen by the country's new parliament, bringing an end to eight years of transitional rule.

Al Shabab fighters are on the back foot, having fled a string of key towns ahead of a 17,000-strong African Union force, which is fighting alongside Somali government troops to wrest territory off the Islamists.

Ethiopian troops are also battling Al Shabab in the south-west of Somalia.

But the Shebab remain a potent threat, still controlling rural areas as well as carrying out guerrilla attacks, including suicide bombings, in areas apparently under government control.