A suicide bomber targeting a minibus full of delegates involved in Somalia’s parliamentary elections killed at least six people in Mogadishu on Thursday, the ambulance service said, while Al Qaeda-linked al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
The blast occurred early on Thursday while the vehicle was passing a busy junction on a road heading to the president’s office in the capital of the East African nation.
Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s Aamin Ambulance Services, said its personnel carried six bodies from the scene. It was not immediately clear who the casualties were.
A delegate on the bus said the passengers were unharmed.
“We were in the bus passing the junction and I saw someone running towards the bus and police shouting at him to ‘stop,’ at gunpoint. Then we heard two gunshots and a blast,” Saado Abdillahi, one of the delegates told Reuters.
“We had passed already but I understand civilians were victims.”
Al Qaeda-linked al Shabab, which aims to topple the central government and impose its own severe interpretation of Islamic law, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it killed six delegates and five police officers.
“A Mujaheed suicide bomber conducted an operation against a convoy of the apostate government. The target was the delegates selecting lawmakers,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabab’s military operations spokesperson said.
Somalia’s elections for lawmakers began on November 1 and were initially supposed to end on December 24, but are currently due to be completed on February 25. The attack on delegates may present an additional challenge to the election.
According to Somalia’s indirect electoral process, regional councils are meant to choose a senate. Delegates include clan elders who pick members of the Lower House, which would then choose a new president on a date yet to be fixed.
A months-long dispute between Somalia’s Prime Minister, Mohammed Hussein Roble, and his political rival, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, has been blamed for the delayed parliamentary elections.
So far, 124 of 275 lawmakers have been elected, according to data from the Election Commission.
Al Shabab frequently carried out bombings and gun assaults in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia.