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Two car bomb explosions rock Somalia’s education ministry

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MOGADISHU: Two huge car bombings rocked Somalia's education ministry in the capital Mogadishu on Saturday causing casualties and shattering windows of nearby buildings, police and witnesses said.

The "simultaneous explosions occurred along the Zobe road and there are various casualties. We will provide details later," Sadik Dudishe, Somali police spokesman said.

A vehicle loaded with explosive was driven into the ministry compound and followed by gunfire, police officer Ibrahim Mohamed said.

"In a few minutes another blast occurred in the same area," he said.

Abdirahman Ise, a witness, said the road had been busy when the first blast went off.

"I saw huge smoke in the ministry area and there is massive destruction," another witness, Amino Salad, said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but armed group Al Shabaab remains a potent force in the troubled Horn of Africa nation despite multinational efforts to degrade its leadership.

The militants have been seeking to overthrow the fragile government in Mogadishu for about 15 years.

Its fighters were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force but the group still controls swathes of countryside and has the capacity to wage deadly strikes on civilian and military targets.

They use threats of violence to collect taxes in territory under their jurisdiction.

The group last week claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in the port city of Kismayo that killed nine people and wounded 47 others.

In August, the group launched a 30-hour gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat hotel in Mogadishu, killing 21 people and wounding 117.

Somali President Hassan Shaikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, vowed after the August siege to wage "all-out war" on the militants.

In September he urged citizens to stay away from areas controlled by militants, saying the armed forces and tribal militia were ratcheting up offensives against them.

A joint US-Somali drone strike killed one of the militants' most senior commanders on October 1.

Just hours after his death was announced, a triple bombing in the southern city of Beledweyne killed at least 30 people.

In addition to violence, Somalia -- like its neighbours in the Horn of Africa -- is in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years. Four failed rainy seasons have wiped out livestock and crops.

The conflict-wracked nation is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change but is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the crisis as it battles the deadly insurgency. -- AFP

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