Shabaab suicide bombing strikes near defense ministry headquarters

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that targeted the newly minted chief of defense forces near Somalia’s Ministry of Defense in Mogadishu. General Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, the bombing’s target, survived the blast, but at least 15 people were killed.

According to al Jazeera, Jimale was travelling with other Somali officials near the defense ministry headquarters when the Shabaab suicide bomber detonated his vehicle. Jimale survived, but several soldiers traveling with the general were killed. In addition, a nearby passenger bus was also hit in the explosion. Shabaab’s statement acknowledges that the general escaped the assassination attempt.

Abdul Aziz Abu Musab, Shabaab’s spokesman, said that Jimale “barely survived the mujahideen [attack].” The assault comes a few days after Somalia’s new president declared a new war against the jihadist group.

Shabaab has increased the frequency of strikes in Mogadishu since the country’s elections earlier this year. In the wake of Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, being sworn in, Shabaab threatened to escalate assaults in the capital.

Since February, there has been a spate of car bombs in Mogadishu. On Feb. 19, a suicide car bomb killed at least 30 people at a market in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district. On Feb. 27, another suicide car bomb targeted Somali soldiers at a checkpoint just outside the city. On March 13, another car bomb was detonated near the Wehliye Hotel, killing at least 13. On that same day, Shabaab attempted to ram a minibus full of explosives through a military checkpoint, but the bus was stopped before reaching its target.

On March 21, Shabaab killed at least 10 people in a suicide bombing near the presidential palace in Mogadishu. The jihadist group said on its Shahada News Agency Telegram channel that the suicide bombing targeted a “gathering of officers, officials, and government militias” at a checkpoint near the palace. [See Threat Matrix report, Shabaab suicide bombing strikes near presidential palace.]

Attacks in Mogadishu serve as a reminder that the jihadist group retains the ability to strike in high-security areas. Since 2014, Shabaab has attacked the parliament, the president’s compound, and a high security intelligence headquarters. In June 2013, a Shabaab team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu; several UNDP employees were killed and the jihadist group briefly took over the compound. And in 2010, Shabaab was even able to launch a suicide assault on an African Union medical clinic in the Mogadishu airport.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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