At least 5 people were killed in an explosion by al-Shabab near a school in the Somali capital

At least 5 people were killed in an explosion by al-Shabab near a school in the Somali capital

Mogadishu — A huge explosion outside a school in the Somali capital on Thursday killed at least five people, including students, witnesses said. The extremist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

The al-Qaeda-linked group controls large parts of rural Somalia and continues to thwart efforts to rebuild the Horn of Africa nation after three decades of conflict.

The blast sent a plume of smoke over a busy part of Mogadishu during the morning rush hour.

Abdul Qadir Aden of the Ambulance Service confirmed the death of five people to the Associated Press, and the service said that at least 15 injured people had been taken to hospital.

“This is a tragedy,” he said.

Pictures showed that the explosion ruptured part of the school, while emergency workers looked through collapsed ceiling beams and wooden benches.

Al-Shabab said in a statement carried by Radio Al-Andalus that it targeted Western officials accompanied by an African Union peacekeeping convoy. But witness Hassan Ali told the Associated Press that a private security company was escorting the officials and said he saw four security personnel injured.

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The attack occurred at a time when Somalia faces major questions about its political and security future. An African Union peacekeeping force was supposed to withdraw from the country, but its mission could be extended amid concerns that Somali forces are not ready to take responsibility for security. The United States said earlier this year that the withdrawal of its forces from Somalia had been completed.

A long-awaited presidential vote was scheduled for February, but now appears set to take place next year.

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