Al-Shabab fighters have attacked several police stations and security checkpoints in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, officials and the armed group said – a show of force as the country prepares to hold a long-delayed presidential election.
State television on Wednesday reported that five people, including two children, were killed in two attacks: one at a police station in the Kahda district and another at a target in the Darusalam district.
The al-Qaeda-linked group carries out frequent attacks against the government and last week attacked a minibus carrying election delegates.
The group’s military operations spokesman, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said fighters hit government targets in four districts in Mogadishu and another area on its outskirts.
He said the fighters overran government bases and seized military vehicles and weapons.
It was not immediately possible to verify those claims.
Internal Security Minister Abdullahi Nor wrote on Twitter early on Wednesday: “The terrorists attacked the suburbs of Mogadishu and targeted our police stations and checkpoints. Our security defeated the enemy.”
A witness who visited the scene of an attack on the Kahda police station told Reuters news agency that the building was destroyed, along with nearby houses.
Resident Halima Faragh told Reuters the explosions sounded like an earthquake and said she and her family fled their home in fear.
The latest attacks come as indirect parliamentary elections are held. Elections for politicians began on November 1 and were initially supposed to end on December 24, but are currently due to be completed on February 25.
Somalia’s indirect electoral process calls for regional councils to choose a senate. Delegates include clan elders who pick members of the lower house, which would then choose a new president at a date yet to be fixed.
A months-long dispute between Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and his political rival President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has been blamed for the delayed presidential elections.