Mogadishu: At least 12 people were killed and 15 injured in a car bomb explosion near the Governor’s office in the Somali capital on Monday. Police officer Mohamed Abdelkadir, who was at the scene of the incident, confirmed the figures shortly after the blast in Mogadishu’s central district of Hamar Weyne, Efe news agency reported.

The explosion caused significant material damage to shops and restaurants in the area, which was cordoned off by security forces.

Somali militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting government officials, according to local media.

This attack came after at least seven people were killed and five were injured on January 29 in two car bomb explosions in Somalia’s restive capital.

Mogadishu is frequently hit by attacks claimed by al-Shabaab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the country, located on the Horn of Africa, and controls swathes of territory in the nation’s central and southern regions.

Somalia suffered its worst attack in 2017 when a powerful truck bomb ripped through a crossroads outside a hotel, killing over 550 people.

The country has been in a state of war and chaos since 1991 when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.

Earlier in January, the Somali government expelled the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, Nicholas Haysom, who according to a UN statement “was accused by the Somali Federal Government of interfering in its internal affairs, by questioning the detention of an opposition candidate for state-wide office, who had been a leader in the extremist al-Shabaab group, before defecting.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the move, along with 15 members of the Security Council, and said a new UNSOM special representative would be chosen as a replacement in due course.

According to the UN statement, Guterres said he was “totally committed to ensuring that the needs of the Somali people are at the forefront of the work of the United Nations in Somalia,” adding that UNSOM “needs to be able to carry out in the most effective manner its mandate to support the country.”