At least three soldiers have been killed near Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in a suicide car bomb attack at a military base claimed by the al-Shabab armed group.
Sunday’s explosion took place near the gate of the base in Afgoye town, 30km south-west of Mogadishu, according to security officials and al-Shabab.
“Police and military fired at a speeding suicide car bomb today and it exploded in Afgoye district. So far, we know three soldiers died,” Captain Nur Ali, a police officer, told the Reuters news agency.
Al-Shabab claimed a higher death toll.
“A suicide car bomb targeted Somali forces who were deployed ahead of President [Mohamed Abdullahi] Farmaajo’s visit in Afgoye. We killed 11 soldiers,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military operation spokesman, told Reuters.
Residents reported hearing a powerful explosion, followed by gunfire from the base.
Addow Isse, a resident in the town, said he saw at least three bodies lying in a pool of blood, according to The Associated Press news agency.
Colonel Ahmed Ali told AP that fatalities could increase from the 10 injured in the blast.
In a separate incident on Sunday, police said a car bomb parked in front of a restaurant at the busy street of Maka al-Mukaram in Mogadishu had exploded.
“A car bomb exploded at a parking in front [of] a restaurant,” Major Abdullahi Hussein, a police officer, told the Reuters news agency.
Abdikar Abdirahman, director of Amin ambulance services said: “So far, we have taken two dead people and seven others are injured.”
A Reuters witness said he saw three dead and the wreckage of three cars and an autorickshaw.
Earlier, Somali forces killed two fighters after a gun battle erupted briefly at a checkpoint in the capital, according to police.
“Somalia’s military killed two armed militants at Benadir checkpoint. Two soldiers were slightly injured in the exchange of fire,” Major Mohamed Abdullahi, a police officer, told Reuters.
Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia‘s government, routinely stages attacks.
The group was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by Somali troops backed by African Union soldiers.