Police: 6 killed in attack on Turkish embassy in Somalia

Story highlights

  • Somali president decries what he calls an "act of cowardly desperation"
  • A minivan full of explosives blows up outside Turkish embassy in Mogadishu
  • Two security guards, a student and three attackers die, Somali police say
  • Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claims responsibility
Blood and body parts littered the ground outside Turkey's embassy in Somalia on Saturday afternoon, the grisly result of a blast that police said left six dead and nine wounded.
A minivan packed with explosives went off around 5 p.m. in the heart of Mogadishu, just a few meters from the Turkish diplomatic post, said police Col. Ahmed Mohamud.
When it was over, two Somali security guards, a university student and three attackers were dead, according to Mohamud.
Turkish embassy sources said that two of its staff members were among the wounded.
Somali police and Turkish embassy guards, meanwhile, converged on the scene. Mangled buses and cars ended up in a disfigured heap, while the windows of numerous nearby apartments were shattered.
Al-Shabaab -- a militant Islamist group with connections to al Qaeda -- claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We are behind the martyrdom explosion," the group claimed via Twitter. "The Turkish were our main target."
The U.S. government reacted Saturday to "the terrorist attack" by pledging its solidarity with Turkey, "the people of Somalia ... and all members of the international community who are working for peace and stability in Somalia."
"This cowardly act will not shake our commitment to continue working for the brighter, more democratic and prosperous future the people of Somalia deserve," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud similarly blasted what he called "an act of cowardly desperation by terrorists" against one of his nation's "most determined and dependable allies." He lauded Turks' "tireless efforts" over the past two years to help build new schools and hospitals, among other contributions.
"I condemn this criminal act of terrorism and my government and security forces will do everything it can to catch those who planned and directed it," Hassan said.
"We must continue to stand firm against those who seek to destroy this country and, with the brave support of our allies, we must double our efforts to deliver the peaceful future the Somali people so desperately want."
Saturday's bombing was the second major attack in Mogadishu in a few days: On Wednesday, at least one person died in the capital after a bomb hidden in a lawmaker's car blew up.
The targeted member of Parliament, Sheikh Adan Mader, and other lawmakers were out of the car when the blast occurred and were unharmed, police said.
Designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2008, al-Shabaab has waged a war with Somali's government in an effort to implement a stricter form of Islamic law in the country.
Its forces were pushed out of Mogadishu in summer 2011 by Somali and other African forces, raising hopes of a return to relative security in a city after about 20 years of violence.
But the militants have persisted by maintaining control of large rural areas of southern and central Somalia and staging guerrilla-style attacks. In one such attack that al-Shabaab took credit for, in June, at least 14 people died and 15 were wounded in an attack on U.N. headquarters in Mogadishu.
In addition to its volatile security situation, Somalia has been plagued by famine.
A May report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network, found that 258,000 Somalis had died in the famine between October 2010 and April 2012. Half of the famine victims were children younger than 5.