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Suicide bomber kills 18 at Somalia police academy

SF Gate logo SF Gate 12/14/2017 By Abdi Guled

MOGADISHU, Somalia — An Islamic extremist suicide bomber disguised as a police officer killed at least 18 people at a police academy in Somalia’s capital on Thursday, authorities said. The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility.

Twenty other officers were wounded, some of them seriously, Col. Mohamud Aden said.

The bomber, with explosives strapped around his waist and torso, infiltrated Gen. Kahiye Police Academy and targeted officers rehearsing for Somalia’s Police Day celebrations scheduled for Wednesday, Capt. Mohamed Hussein said.

The bomber walked into the academy undetected and joined a line of officers before he detonated the explosives under his sportswear, Hussein said.

“He detonated his bomb vest having realized that his presence had drawn suspicion among officers in the queue,” he said.

Officer Farah Omar, who was at the scene at the time of the blast, said the bomber targeted a spot where dozens of soldiers had gathered.

“He wanted to inflict maximum damage,” Omar said.

A relative of one victim said he had recently joined the academy. “He wanted to do something for his country, but today we are burying him,” Abdifatah Ahmed said.

Somali men cover the body of a victim of the suicide bomb attack, before burial, following a suicide bomb attack on a police academy in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. An Islamic extremist suicide bomber disguised as a police officer killed more than a dozen after infiltrating the Gen. Kahiye Police Academy and detonating explosives strapped around his waist and torso, police said. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh) © Farah Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press Somali men cover the body of a victim of the suicide bomb attack, before burial, following a suicide bomb attack on a police academy in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. An Islamic extremist suicide bomber disguised as a police officer killed more than a dozen after infiltrating the Gen. Kahiye Police Academy and detonating explosives strapped around his waist and torso, police said. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Al-Shabab, which is allied to al Qaeda, carries out frequent bombings and attacks against hotels, checkpoints and other high-profile areas of Mogadishu. The group has been blamed for the massive truck bombing in the capital in October that left 512 dead. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people.

Al-Shabab has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa and is increasingly targeted by the U.S. military after the Trump administration early this year approved expanded air strikes and other efforts against the fighters.

The U.S. has carried out at least 32 drone strikes this year.

Abdi Guled is an Associated Press writer.

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