Two suicide bombers walked into a restaurant in central Mogadishu and killed at least 15 people on Thursday, police said, highlighting the security challenges facing Somalia’s new president.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. However, suspicions will fall on the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab which has carried out a campaign of suicide bombings since it withdrew from the capital last year.
The group claimed responsibility for suicide bombings last week outside a hotel where Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was holding a news conference just two days into the job, an attack interpreted as a warning from the insurgents that they are far from defeated.
Police spokesman General Abdullahi Barise told reporters that 15 people were killed in Thursday’s attack.
The blasts targeted The Village restaurant, owned by well-known businessman Ahmed Jama, who returned to his home country from London to set up the business.
“My relatives, whom I created jobs for, have perished. My customers have perished. All innocent people. I cannot count them, their dead bodies are before me,” a distraught Jama told reporters.
The al Shabaab-linked Web site www.somalimemo.net said in a statement that those killed “supported the infidel government,” but did not say the group was responsible.
Mohamud’s election was hailed by his supporters as a vote for change in a country mired in conflict for more than two decades.
These attacks underscore the security challenges faced by Mohamud as African forces battle to quash a five-year insurgency waged by al-Shabaab.
“We still have hope in the new president and the new speaker [of the Somalian Parliament] that Somalia will sooner or later change for the better,” said Ahmed Ali, a student at a Mogadishu university.
Yet shopkeeper Asha Farah said the optimism Mohamud’s poll win had brought was “melting away.”
“We all applauded the election victory of the new president but things in Mogadishu look like they’re deteriorating. Al-Shabaab have redoubled their suicide bombings,” Farah said.
Al-Shabaab has shown it can still regroup and infiltrate government-controlled areas, and there remain disenchanted, radicalized Somalians ready to strap on explosive belts.