Nineteen people were killed on Wednesday in central Somalia in a double car bombing claimed by radical Islamists Al-Shabab, a commander of a local militia allied to the government told AFP.
“Nineteen people, including members of the security forces and civilians, died in the explosions. The terrorists blew up two cars near a military base in Mahas,” said Mohamed Moalim Adan.
A police spokesman said the vehicles exploded in a neighbourhood full of civilians just after the dawn prayer.
According to witnesses, several people were wounded in the attack in Hiran region, including soldiers and journalists who were embedded with them.
Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mahas is at the centre of the ongoing government offensive against the al-Qaida-linked group that has controlled parts of central and southern Somalia for years.
The Somali army, together with local militias, recently opened a key supply route to Mahas after it had long been under siege.
Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud vowed in July last year that his government would launch a “total war” against the extremist fighters.
In addition to the support of local militias, the authorities can count on the African Union's mission ATMIS and American strikes as they fight the insurgents.