At least 18 people were killed in a bombing incident at a security checkpoint in Somalia's Beledweyne city, according to Somalian authorities. Around 40 others were injured after a explosive-laden vehicle exploded at the checkpoint.
"Twenty of the wounded have been admitted to Beledweyne hospitals, while another 20 are in critical condition, prompting a request for their airlift to Mogadishu for advanced medical treatment," said Abdirahman Dahir Gure, the interior minister of Hirshabelle state.
Beledweyne is the capital of Somalia's Hiran region, which also includes Hirshabelle, the centre of Somalian government's military offensive against al-Shabab, the affiliate group of al-Qaeda in East Africa.
Images posted on social media depicted smoke and a truck on fire at the spot, while nearby areas were also damaged. The al-Shabab terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for the attack, even though it is largely considered to be behind such attacks.
"It was a truck loaded with explosive devices that forcefully passed through the government-manned checkpoint, and a pickup vehicle belonging to security personnel was chasing it when it exploded," a witness said.
Earlier this month, an airstrike struck a town in Somalia, killing several people including children and also three al-Shabab members near a military operation by Somali forces, according to US military forces stationed there.
“The claim being spread by al-Shabab that US forces caused the unfortunate harm to civilians is false,” the American military said in a statement at that time.
Somalia's government launched a 'total war' last year against al-Shabab, which controls some parts of central and southern Somalia and makes millions of dollars through “taxation” of residents and extortion of businesses.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud encouraged people to stand up to the threat of the al-Shabab terrorist group, who have carried out brazen attacks in many parts of the country. The government's stance is considered the most significant offensive in over a decade.
(with AP inputs)