At least three people are dead after a mysterious explosion that rocked a stronghold of the Islamist insurgent Shebab group in southern Mogadishu, officials and witnesses said on Monday.
The powerful blast in Hamarjadid neighbourhood late Sunday was heard across the Somali capital.
“There was a heavy explosion in the Hamarjadid area last night and we found the dead bodies of three people on the site of the blast. We don’t have their identities yet,” a Shebab official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We are still investigating the incident and when the probe is completed, the relevant officials in charge of information will communicate more details to the press,” he added.
Local residents said Shebab forces completely cordoned off the area.
“We heard the very loud explosion last night in our neighbourhood but so far we don’t know what caused it. I saw three dead bodies but this morning you cannot get close because the Shebab have sealed off the area,” Mohamed Farah, a Hamarjadid resident, said.
“There were several armed vehicles in the area just after the explosion and the dead were definitely Islamist fighters but we’re not sure which group theuy belonged to,” said Nur Shekhey Ali, another witness.
The Shebab, whose leadership has proclaimed allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, has been fighting the government and its African Union allies alongside Hezb al-Islam, a smaller and more political outfit.
Cracks have emerged in the allinace in recent months, with both factions clashing in the southern port of Kismayo last year and in a town near the Kenyan border earlier this month.
As newly-trained government forces backed by African Union forces are believed to prepare for an unprecedented offensive to recapture the country from the Shebab, insurgents have reportedly been planting bombs in the city.
Security reports indicate that IEDs (improvised explosive devices) have been hidden in Mogadishu to hamper the government’s advance and several insurgents are believed to have died in accidental explosions.