MOGADISHU: This photo taken at the Medina hospital in Mogadishu yesterday shows a woman crying after her son was killed in the bombing at a military camp in Mogadishu. – AFP

MOGADISHU: A suicide bomber killed 15 army recruits and wounded 20 more as they queued outside a military training camp in Mogadishu yesterday, military and hospital sources said. The attack is the deadliest in the Somali capital in 18 months. The explosion happened at around 9 am (0600 GMT) according to eyewitness Mohamed Adan, an army officer at the base.

“I have counted about 15 new recruits who have been killed in the blast,” he said. Adan said the bomber had slipped in among the recruits queuing up outside the General Dhegobadan Military Camp when the explosion occurred. Speaking on national radio, army chief Odowa Yusuf Rage, said, “The new recruits were in a queue outside the entrance of the Dhegobadan military camp preparing to enter the base before the suicide bomber sneaked into the line and blew up himself.”

Rage claimed, “10 young men who wanted to join the national armed forces were killed and 20 others wounded.” However, sources at the main Madina hospital and the morgue confirmed to AFP that 15 had been killed. “We have received 15 dead bodies from today’s blast, some of them had serious shrapnel wounds and all of them were young men approximately between twenty to twenty-seven years of age,” said a mortuary employee. Grieving mother, Maryama Hussein, said, “I lost one son, he is dead, his body is in the hospital.”

Regular attacks
Hundreds of new recruits to the Somali National Army are trained at Camp Dhegobadan every year, primarily to fight against Al-Shabaab insurgents. Yesterday, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a nearby Turkish military training facility known as Camp Turksom, around 600 meters away, but there was no evidence of an attack having taken place there. That base was, however, the target of a similar but botched attack in June 2020 when a suicide bomber attempted to conceal himself among recruits before being discovered and shot dead.

Soldiers and military facilities are common targets for Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-aligned jihadist group fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu. Hotels and security checkpoints are also frequently attacked. In December 2019, 81 people were killed by a suicide car bomber at a checkpoint in the city center, while the last major assault on a hotel killed 11 in August 2020.

Somalia has been mired in interlocking crises for the last three decades, with repeated bouts of civil war, clan conflict, Islamist insurgency, famine and political instability. Al-Shabaab rose to prominence in 2006. Despite the long deployment of African Union peacekeepers it remains a potent force even though it has lost much of the territory it once controlled. – AFP