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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – The death toll from two bombings in central Somalia on Wednesday night has exceeded 30, the police chief of Beledweyne district, the Al-Shabab insurgent group, told AFP on Thursday. claiming he was targeting politicians ahead of the election.

The first attack in Beledweyne district was carried out by a suicide bomber and killed two local lawmakers including Amina Mohamed Abdi and several of her guards as she campaigned for re-election.

Minutes later a car bomb exploded outside Beledweyne’s main hospital where the injured were being taken for treatment, killing dozens and leaving vehicles in charred and twisted ruins.

“The terrorists carried out the first attack using a suicide bomber and prepared an explosive-laden car in front of a hospital to cause more casualties,” Colonel Isak Ali Abdulle said.

“We are still trying to establish the total number of casualties, but so far we have confirmed that more than 30 people have been killed in the second explosion alone,” he said.

“These were devastating simultaneous attacks that damaged property and caused numerous civilian casualties.”

The bombings took place on the same day that three people were killed in another attack near Mogadishu airport, also claimed by Al-Shabab.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants frequently target civilian, military and government targets in and outside the Somali capital.

Witnesses described carnage outside Beledweyne Hospital.

“The second explosion was very huge, it happened outside the hospital and my brother and one of our neighbors were among the dead,” said Beledweyne resident Mahad Yare.

Al-Shabab said it carried out the attacks to target politicians running in the ongoing elections.

British Ambassador to Somalia Katie Foster shared her condolences on Twitter, saying: “We strongly condemn the use of violence to intimidate and disrupt the elections.”

The European Union Ambassador to the country, Tiina Intelmann, also offered her condolences, writing on Twitter: “Violence is not a way forward for #Somalia. The #EU condemns terrorism and politically motivated killings. »

Earlier on Wednesday, security forces shot dead two gunmen who were trying to storm a heavily fortified area in the Somali capital Mogadishu, near the city’s main airport.

The airport complex houses the United Nations, aid agencies, foreign missions and contractors, as well as the headquarters of the African Union military mission, AMISOM.

Three people were killed in this attack – a policeman, an AMISOM soldier and a civilian.

Al-Shabab has sought to overthrow the country’s fragile government for more than a decade.

The Horn of Africa nation has seen a series of attacks in recent weeks as it navigates a long-delayed electoral process.

Somalia’s main foreign backer, the United States, has already imposed travel sanctions on key political figures for undermining the electoral process.

The lower house election is now due to close on March 31, clearing the way for lawmakers to choose a president.

Somalia’s international backers have warned that election delays are diverting attention from the fight against al-Shabab.

The extremists controlled Mogadishu until 2011 when they were driven out by AMISOM troops, but still hold territory in the countryside.

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