MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somali militants attacked a restaurant near Mogadishu’s seat of government for the second time in less than a year on Saturday, detonating two large blasts that killed at least 15 people and wounded nearly two dozen, police said.
Officials said the attack included a car bomb blast and a suicide bomber who entered The Village eatery. The second blast was caused by a suicide bomber posing as a first responder after the car bomb exploded, the African Union military force in Somalia said in a statement.
The force of the blasts appeared to tear much of the roof off the restaurant, which is frequented by government workers.
Capt. Ali Hussein, a senior police official, put the death toll at 15 and said at least 20 had been wounded in the blasts.
“This disaster never comes to an end,” yelled Isaq Hassan, a car washer who lost a colleague in the blasts. “See this, that and this! Life is worthless here,” he said as he pointed to dead bodies on the ground.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said wounded people screaming in pain were being taken away by ambulance. Soldiers also fired in the air, apparently in an attempt to restore order. Dead bodies badly burned by the flames could be seen by frightened onlookers who had gathered.
Nicholas Kay, the U.N. representative for Somalia, condemned the attack, saying “cruel and cowardly acts of terrorism serve to remind us that the people of Somalia desperately need peace.”
“Terrorism is a threat to Somalis, the people of the region and the world. It needs to be defeated militarily and politically,” said Kay.
Militants, most likely from the group al-Shabab, attacked The Village last November. That attack, though, was less severe; two suicide bombers attacked but the blast killed only one guard. Guards were reported to have opened fire on the attackers, which may have kept the death toll down.
Al-Shabab makes frequent attack attempts against government leaders and seats of power.
“They attack the restaurants because they hate to see people peacefully spending time together,” said Mohamed Abdi, an Interior Ministry employee who spoke as he stood near the dead body of an old man. “They are committed to obliterating any sign of peace. Because of such attacks, it’s very hard for the government to restore security in the near future.”
African Union forces pushed the al-Qaida-affiliated group al-Shabab out of Mogadishu in August 2011, but the rebels continue to carry out suicide attacks in the capital.