An explosives-laden vehicle detonated Saturday (Sep. 23) at a security checkpoint in the central Somalia city of Beledweyne, killing at least 18 people and wounding 40 others, authorities said.
Beledweyne, the capital of the Hiran region, is in Hirshabelle state, and has been the center of the Somali government’s latest military offensive against extremists from East Africa’s al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab.
Ismail Ali witnessed the blast. He said: "What happened is a national tragedy and words cannot express our grief."
He continued: "You can imagine how densely populated this area was, there were three garages connected to one another housing a large number of vehicles and occupants, and all of these people were killed in the explosion and all of them were innocent people."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from al-Shabab, which often carries out such attacks and controls parts of Somalia.
The region's governor denounced a heinous act as the death toll was still being established: "Since the number of casualties here is shocking, government agencies such as the police and the hospital are currently examining the situation to determine the exact number of deaths and injuries caused by this blast. We would like to thank those who responded to this tragedy."