The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group has launched a bombing attack on a police training camp in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, killing at least 17 officers and injuring 20 others.
The casualties took place on Thursday, when an assailant infiltrated the General Kahiye Police Training Academy during an early morning parade and detonated the explosives strapped around his waist and torso.
“A man wearing an explosive vest entered the camp disguised as a policeman, and blew himself up,” police officer Mohamed Abdulle said. “Medical rescuers are still working on evacuating the casualties.”
Witnesses said the bomber, in order to inflict maximum damage, targeted a spot where soldiers had gathered to rehearse for Somalia’s Police Day celebrations scheduled for December 20.
The Takfiri terrorist group immediately claimed responsibility for the deadly attack but gave a higher death toll.
The General Kahiye Police Training Academy is the biggest training camp for police and security forces in Somalia.
The Horn of Africa nation has been the scene of deadly clashes between government forces and al-Shabab militants since 2006.
The Takfiri militant group was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military, and civilian targets in Mogadishu and regional towns.
The extremist group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.
The Thursday attack comes as the African Union is finalizing plans to trim its peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which was deployed a decade ago to help secure the Somali government.
The force of 22,000 is set to lose 1,000 soldiers this month as part of a long-term plan to withdraw troops from the country and hand security to the Somali army.