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Suicide bomber kills 17 at Somali police academy

An Islamic extremist suicide bomber disguised as a police officer has killed at least 17 people at a police academy in Somalia's capital, officials said.

Twenty other officers were wounded by the blast in Mogadishu, some of them seriously.

The bomber, with explosives strapped around his torso, infiltrated the General Kahiye Police Academy and targeted officers gathering for special morning exercises, Captain Mohamed Hussein said.

The officers were rehearsing for Somalia's Police Day celebrations scheduled for December 20.

The bomber walked into the police academy undetected and joined a long line of officers in the rehearsal parade before he detonated the explosives under his sportswear, Capt Hussein said.

"He detonated his bomb vest having realised that his presence had drawn suspicion among officers in the queue," he said.

Police officer Farah Omar, who was at the scene at the time, said the bomber targeted a spot where dozens of soldiers had gathered.

"He wanted to inflict a maximum damage," said Mr Omar.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group quickly claimed the attack. Al-Shabab, which is allied to al Qaida, carries out frequent bombings and attacks against hotels, checkpoints and other high-profile areas of Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab has been blamed for a massive truck bombing in the capital in October that left 512 dead. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people.

Al-Shabab has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa and is being increasingly targeted by the US military after the Trump administration early this year approved expanded air strikes and other efforts against the fighters.

The US has carried out at least 32 drone strikes this year against al-Shabab and a small but growing number of fighters linked to the Islamic State group, many of them defectors from al-Shabab.

A drone strike earlier this week against an al-Shabab vehicle carrying explosives prevented an "imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu", US Africa Command said.

AP

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