At least six people have been killed and the mayor of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, wounded in a suicide attack inside his office, officials said, only hours after a visit by the newly appointed United Nations envoy to the premises.
Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman “was wounded in the blast and he is currently being treated,” Mohamed Abdullahi Tulah, deputy mayor, told state-owned Radio Mogadishu on Wednesday.
The Horn of Africa country’s information minister, Mohamed Abdi Hayir, said Mogadishu district commissioners were among the dead.
“Six people, including two district commissioners and three directors, were killed in the terrorist attack this afternoon,” Mohamed told reporters in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked armed group fighting to overthrow Somalia’s UN-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group said the attack was intended to target UN’s special envoy James Swan.
.@UN envoy to #Somalia James Swan condemns today's attack in offices of #Mogadishu’s Mayor @engyarisow, whom he had met earlier in the day. “The UN stands with the people and government of Somalia… and our thoughts are with the victims.” For more: https://t.co/nroqPECKEX pic.twitter.com/w1FhCnuzCb
— UNSOM (@UNSomalia) July 24, 2019
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia confirmed Swan met Osman at his office earlier on Wednesday, but said he had left the building by the time of the explosion.
“I deplore this heinous attack which not only demonstrates a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis in the Mogadishu-Banadir region,” Swan said in a statement.
“The UN stands with the people and government of Somalia in their rejection of such terrorist acts, and our thoughts are with the victims of this attack.”
A witness and security source, who asked not to be named, told the AFP news agency that a suicide bomber had entered a hall where the officials were meeting and detonated his explosives inside the building.
“The blast was very heavy, and I saw people, fleeing some with shrapnel wounds outside the Banadir administration headquarters,” Mohamud Shariif, a witness, said.
Al-Shabab has been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s fragile government, which is backed by a 20,000-strong African Union force, AMISOM, and the UN.
Somalia has been riven by conflict since 1991, when clan-based armed groups overthrew then-President Mohamed Siad Barre, and then turned on each other.