December 15, 2016 / 7:38 AM / a year ago

Bomb kills five Somali soldiers in capital Mogadishu

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A bomb blast killed five soldiers and injured a dozen other people in the Somali capital on Thursday, a municipal spokesman said, hours after a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint, killing the attacker.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks but Islamist al Shabaab militants have been trying to disrupt Somalia’s protracted parliamentary elections - part of efforts to rebuild the fractured nation after decades of war. The three-month vote is due to end on Dec. 29.

“The (second) bomb killed at least five government soldiers and injured a dozen others, including civilians. The bomb was planted under the tree where they were sitting,” said

Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for Mogadishu municipality said a bomb placed under a tree where people were sitting outside a tea shop killed the soldiers and that the wounded included civilians.

“We heard a huge blast and soon we saw people lying under the tree, some dead, others yelling for help,” shopkeeper Nur Abdullahi said. “Among the injured ones were two young children.”

Earlier in the day, a car bomb blew up at a checkpoint near the national theatre in Mogadishu, killing the bomber, police in the coastal capital said. There was no immediate word on whether anybody else was killed or injured in the blast.

Witnesses said the explosion was followed by gunfire. “The bomber blew up the car after police ordered him to stop at gunpoint. We are investigating,” Abdikadir Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

The national theatre stands about 500 metres (yards) away from the presidential palace.

Al Shabaab, which is affiliated with al Qaeda, aims to drive out African Union peacekeepers, topple Somalia’s Western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

The militants once held large swathes of Somalia including Mogadishu before being ousted from the capital in 2011 and losing further ground, though they continue to pose a formidable threat with bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya.

Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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