The Somali militant group al Shabaab bombed a busy junction and a nearby restaurant in the town of Baidoa on Sunday, killing as many as 55 people.
"The restaurant and the junction were very busy and the death toll may rise," Police Major Bilow Nurr told Reuters from Baidoa, which is located about 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu. Another police officer said a suicide car bomb blew up at the junction while a second blast, possibly a bomb that had been planted or a suicide bomber, struck the restaurant.
Ismail Olad told Reuters the two locations were full of civilians and security forces. "I heard a huge crash at the busy junction and as I ran, I heard another blast at a restaurant ahead of me. The whole place was covered by smoke," he said.
According to a journalist reporting live from the scene via Twitter, 55 people were confirmed dead and 60 were hospitalized. Police Colonel Abdi Osman said at least 17 were killed, mostly civilians, with 25 others injured.
Al Shabaab often carries out such suicide attacks in the capital and elsewhere in its bid to topple Somalia's Western-backed government. The group wants to impose its strict version of Islamic rule in the Horn of Africa nation.
"We targeted government officials and forces," al Shabaab's military operation spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters, adding that there was a police station nearby.
The blasts follow a car bomb attack in Mogadishu on Friday that killed 14 people near a park and hotel. Three al Shabaab militants were also killed in the attack.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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