MOGADISHU, Somalia — A suicide car bomber exploded at the gate to Mogadishu’s airport yesterday, and suicide bombers in a second vehicle rushed toward the terminal before exploding themselves short of their goal, officials said. Up to 14 people were killed, including five attackers.
The coordinated assault by al-Shabab fighters was the latest in a surge of attacks by Islamist insurgents, who last month declared an intensified effort to oust the country’s weak government. The barrage took place about 40 minutes after Somalia’s president flew out of the country.
The Somali government and the 7,000-man African Union force that protects Somalia’s government gave slightly differing accounts of the attack, though they agreed on the broad outlines.
After the suicide car bomber exploded at the front gate, 500 yards from the terminal, between two and four suicide bombers left a second vehicle and battled security forces.
At least two of the bombers — who were wearing Somali military uniforms — forced their way into the airport grounds and ran toward the terminal. “Both were brought to a halt within 200 yards of the terminal building where they exploded their IED [improvised explosive device] vests,’’ the African Union said in a statement.
Somali officials condemned the attack on the eve of the Muslim religious festival of Eid but said they had anticipated a high-profile assault. Eid marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was aimed at a meeting of UN, African Union, and Somali officials.