NAIROBI, Kenya — Attacks in two of Somalia’s largest cities killed five people and wounded 16 others Saturday, in the latest example of the chronic failure of the country’s security sector to crack down on terrorist groups.
In the capital, Mogadishu, a suicide car bomber targeted a tax collection center in the Hamar Jajab district in the city’s southeast, the Somali Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism said in a statement. While security officers were able to stop the attacker from reaching the collection center, the blast damaged a nearby wall and wounded six people, including police officers. The bomber died in the attack.
In Baidoa, the capital of the southwestern Bay region, a land mine detonated near a restaurant on the outskirts of the city, killing five people and wounding 10 others, government officials said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, has carried out similar assaults in the past.
“The Somali government condemns in the strongest terms the attacks against the civilians,” the statement from the ministry read.
The attacks come 11 days after the Shabab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a Turkish military base in Somalia. Known as Camp Turksom, the compound, Turkey’s biggest overseas military base, is used to train Somali forces and is part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to strengthen his country’s strategic presence in the Horn of Africa.
In recent years, the Shabab, which controls large swaths of south and central Somalia, has continued to gain strength, carrying out deadly attacks in both Somalia and Kenya. In late December, the group killed 82 people, including 16 university students, when it detonated an explosives-laden truck at a busy intersection in Mogadishu.
A week later, the Shabab killed a U.S. service member and two American military contractors when insurgents from the group overran a base in Kenya that houses American troops.
The devastating and almost daily attacks against civilians, public officials and security offices have put a strain on the fragile Somali government. Despite a flurry of American drone strikes and a 20,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission fighting the Shabab, the internationally backed Somali government has remained weak and has appeared unable to secure the capital, much less the entire country.
Somali officials, however, dispute that, saying they are increasingly thwarting attacks from the Shabab. They cited the ability of security forces to prevent the attacker from entering the collection center in Saturday’s Mogadishu bombing as evidence of progress.
Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.