At least fifteen people killed in central Somalia car bombings

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At least fifteen people were killed, and several others wounded, in simultaneous car bomb attacks in a town in central Somalia on Wednesday, security officials and witnesses said.

“The terrorists attacked Mahas town this morning using vehicles loaded with explosives,” local security official Abdullahi Adan told AFP by phone.

“They have targeted a civilian area and we have confirmed that nine people, all of them civilians, died in the two explosions.”

The attack, blamed on al-Shabaab extremist fighters, took place in the Hiran region of central Somalia, where a major offensive was launched several months ago against the al-Qaeda- linked group.

“The terrorists, after having (been) defeated, resorted to desperately targeting civilians, but this will not stop the will of the people to continue defeating them,” said Osman Nur, a police commander in Mahas.

“They have killed innocent civilians in the explosions,” he added.

Witnesses said the blasts occurred near a restaurant not far from a district administration building in Mahas.

“I saw the dead bodies of nine civilians including women and children, this was a horrible attack,” said one witness, Adan Hassan.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has declared “all-out war” against al-Shabaab, which has been waging a bloody fight against the internationally-backed federal government for 15 years.

Although forced out of the country’s main urban centers around 10 years ago, al-Shabaab remains entrenched in vast swathes of rural central and southern Somalia and continues to carry out deadly attacks in the face of the offensive.