MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A car bomb exploded on Monday outside restaurant packed with lunchtime customers in the Somali capital of Mogadishu killing at least five people, including school children, said witnesses.
After the blast, a young girl was crying outside the restaurant screaming “where is my sister?” before finding her bloodied body lying next to a burnt out car.
“Now, their attacks are random regardless of whether it’s in a public place or a government institution,” said Abdillahi Hassan, a tailor, who witnessed the attack.
Al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, has been carrying out a campaign of deadly violence targeting government officials and international troops, as well as hotels and restaurants in the capital.
The restaurant in the capital’s Hamarweyne district is close to the municipal government headquarters and in a busy commercial area. Another witness, Mohammed Mahdi, said he saw at least five people covered in blood outside the restaurant.
“The car bomb was detonated outside a restaurant in which civilians were dining — it was a sad incident,” said Abidqadir Mohammed, the commissioner of the district.
The attack came as the Somali government announced the execution of a former journalist linked to al-Shabab on charges of killing five other journalists.
Journalists are also frequently targeted in Somalia and it is one of the most dangerous countries for media workers. At least 18 journalists were killed last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Hassan Hanafi Haji, who once worked as a liaison officer with al-Shabab, was executed by firing squad at the Mogadishu police academy after being extradited from Kenya.
Haji was one of the few prosecuted by the government following years of criticism by rights groups who urged authorities to do more to establish the rule of law and end the killings of journalists.