Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud says an arrest has been made in the car bombing that killed at least 20 people in a crowded market in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday.
Speaking at the launch of the country’s second Science and Technology Center in Mogadishu, President Mohamoud, said “the man who carried out the deadly attack on civilians today was captured by the security forces and he is not in custody.”
According to security officials, at midday local time Saturday, a man parked a car laden with explosives at the entrance of an open air fruit and vegetable market in the city’s Afesyoni neighborhood.
“The suspect attacker parked his car, and then detonated it when the security personnel asked him to move the car away,” said Waberi district commissioner Husein Ahmed Ulosow. “He attempted to escape with injuries but the security forces apprehended him and now he is in custody.’
The blast happened at the entrance to the Beerta market, which is close to Mogadishu’s main airport. White smoke could be seen billowing over the neighborhood after the blast.
Ulosow says, the Somali president’s motorcade passed the road near the market just 30 minutes before the explosion. It is unknown if the president’s convoy was the target.
Isma’il Mohamud Shidane, a young Somali diaspora member, saw his first such experience the same day he returned to the country and helped the victims.
“I came back from Europe to Somali today, and it was my first experience of such deadly explosion,” he said. “The most shocking scene was that of a body torn apart into three pieces, most of the bodies were women.”
“I have helped the collection of at least 17 dead bodies and 20 more wounded people. It was a disaster,” Moa’lim Muuse, an eyewitness, told VOA Somali.
VOA reporters on the scene say at least 20 people were killed and more than 20 others injured in the blast.
The Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab often carries out such attacks in the capital, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility by the group, which wants to topple the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam.
The latest blast comes as the country has been holding a vote at polling centers across the country over several weeks for a new parliament.
Some 14,000 people representing Somalia’s federal states have been chosen to pick the 275 lawmakers. Those members of parliament will choose a new president.
The government, U.N. officials and international donors have said security issues prevented a broader vote.
The parliamentary vote was due to end on Nov. 30, after several delays, but an official said it was now likely to last until mid-December.