At least two people were killed when a bomb exploded yesterday in a busy market in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu at the start of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, police said.
“The explosive device was planted under a pile of rubbish near a police post,” police officer Abdi Bare told AFP.
“Two people are confirmed killed and seven others, mainly civilians, were wounded,” he added.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Somalia’s Al Qaeda linked Shebaab have carried out a string of similar bombings, and have vowed to increase attacks during the fasting month of Ramadan.
The roadside bomb ripped through Mogadishu’s Karan market, in the north of the capital, where people were busy buying food to celebrate the breaking of the fast with their families at sunset.
“The market was very busy when a heavy explosion rocked the area where fruits and vegetables are sold, I saw several injured people, it was a large blast,” said Ali Mohamed, a witness.
Last week the Shebaab commander in Mogadishu Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein warned attacks would increase with the capital becoming the “frontline” for assaults.
“Mujahedeen fighters will intensify strikes on the enemy,” Hussein said in a radio broadcast Sunday.
Shebaab fighters fled fixed positions in Mogadishu three years ago and have since lost most large towns to a 22,000-strong UN-backed African Union force, fighting alongside government soldiers. However, the extremist fighters still regularly launch guerrilla raids.
Recent Shebaab attacks in Somalia have targeted key areas of government, or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities and AU troops that they are winning the war.
Last week Shebaab commandos attacked an AU military base in central Somalia dressed in stolen government army uniforms, killing at least two soldiers from Djibouti.
But the Islamists also threaten other countries in the region, especially those contributing troops to the AU force, including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
China will reopen its embassy in Somalia after signs the East African country was making progress in its efforts to restore peace decades after the end of its civil war, the foreign ministry said yesterday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China will send a team to Somalia on July 1 to reopen the embassy, which was closed in 1991 as Somalia descended into chaos.
“China’s reopening of the embassy in Somalia is a signal that China attaches great importance to relations with Somalia,” Hong said at a daily briefing.
Once written off as a failed state, Somalia now has its most legitimate government for decades since president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s election in 2012, but the government still struggles to exert influence beyond the capital and is plagued by recent attacks by Al Shebaab.
China’s announcement comes just over three weeks after the United States said it will appoint a new ambassador to Mogadishu for the first time since closing its embassy there 23 years ago.
Britain and Turkey have both opened embassies in Somalia and other countries, including Iran, are also vying for influence in the Horn of Africa nation.
China has made major investments in Africa, mainly in the natural resources sector. Africans broadly see China as a healthy counterbalance to Western influence but, as ties mature, there are growing calls from policymakers and economists for more balanced trade relations.
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