At least three soldiers have been killed near Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in a suicide car bomb attack at a military base claimed by the al-Shabab armed group.
Sunday’s explosion took place near the gate of the base in Afgoye town, 30km south-west of Mogadishu, according security officials and al-Shabab.
“Police and military fired at a speeding suicide car bomb today and it exploded in Afgoye district. So far we know three soldiers died,” Captain Nur Ali, a police officer, told Reuters news agency.
Al-Shabab claimed a higher death toll.
“A suicide car bomb targeted Somali forces who were deployed ahead of President [Mohamed Abdullahi] Farmaajo’s visit in Afgoye. We killed 11 soldiers,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military operation spokesman, told Reuters.
Residents reported hearing a powerful explosion, followed by gunfire from the base.
Addow Isse, a resident in the town, said he saw at least three bodies lying in a pool of blood, according to The Associated Press news agency.
Colonel Ahmed Ali told AP that fatalities could increase from the 10 injured in the blast.
In a separate incident, Somali forces killed two fighters after a gun battle erupted briefly at a checkpoint in Mogadishu early on Sunday, according to police.
“Somalia’s military killed two armed militants at Benadir checkpoint. Two soldiers were slightly injured in the exchange of fire,” Major Mohamed Abdullahi, a police officer, told Reuters.
Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s government, routinely stages attacks.
The group was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by Somali troops backed by African Union soldiers.