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60 killed in car blast at Mogadishu checkpoint

Dozens of people were also injured in the rush-hour explosion, and the death toll is expected to increase further.

A man injured in the blast is helped to safety at the checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia (Farah Abdi Warsame/AP)
A man injured in the blast is helped to safety at the checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia (Farah Abdi Warsame/AP)

By Abdi Guled, Associated Press

At least 60 people have been killed in a car bomb blast at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital.

Police said the blast targeted a tax collection centre during the Saturday morning rush-hour in Mogadishu as Somalians returned to work after the weekend.

Government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar said the death toll is likely to increase further as more than 50 people injured in the incident, some seriously, are being treated in hospital.

Mayor Omar Mohamud Mohamed, speaking at the scene, said university students were among those killed. Two Turkish nationals were also killed.

Photos from the scene showed the mangled frames of vehicles, with a large black plume of smoke rising into the sky above.

No group has yet said it was behind the blast.

Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab often carries out such attacks. The extremist group was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to target high-profile areas such as checkpoints and hotels in the city.

Al-Shabab was blamed for a devastating truck bombing in Mogadishu in October 2017 that killed more than 500 people, though the group never claimed responsibility for the blast.

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An injured man is taken away from the scene on a stretcher (Farah Abdi Warsame/AP)

The latest attack again raises concern about the readiness of Somali forces to take over responsibility for the Horn of Africa country’s security in the coming months from an African Union force.

Al-Shabab, the target of a growing number of US air strikes since President Donald Trump took office, controls parts of Somalia’s southern and central regions. It funds itself with a “taxation” system that experts describe as extortion of businesses and travellers that brings in millions of dollars a year.

PA

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