Mogadishu Terror Attack: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Mogadishu, Somalia,

A soldiers checks the area where a suicide bomber from Somalia’s Shebab insurgents killed at least 12 people and wounded 27 others, on September 8, 2014, by ramming a vehicle packed with explosives into a convoy of African Union troops in Mogadishu, in September, 2014. (Getty)

A large blast was heard in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu Sunday, the result of an apparent car bomb targeting an anti-terror unit trained by the United States.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Blast Appears to Have Been a Car Bomb

When the “huge blast” was heard at approximately 5:15 p.m. local time, witnesses reported a plume of smoke rising over the city’s Waaberi district.

According to local reports, a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into another car, driven by Gashaan anti-terror troops.

As Somali police official Ahmed Adan told the AFP:

“There was a car bomb explosion near the Afisiyone area. We are getting information that a suicide bomber rammed a car laden with explosives into a pickup truck.”

2. ‘American Puppet’ Anti-Terror Troops Were Targeted

Somalia, Mogadishu

Somali soldiers patrol in Wadajir district South of capital following heavy fighting on August 15, 2014 in Mogadishu. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

Witnesses at the scene said the car bomb specifically targeted government security forces. Al-Queda-linked al-Shabaab has taken credit for the attack. According to a Somalia military spokesman, “American puppets” were the specific target, perhaps referring to the country’s elite, U.S.-trained, Gashaan unit.

Al-Shabaab spokesperson Abu Musaab told al-Jazeera that the group intended to kill “white mercenaries.”

According to Musaab:

“We conducted an operation against the apostates – including white mercenaries – in Mogadishu. There were heavy casualties. We will give more details later.”

The Gashaan, trained by the U.S., has been cited by U.S. officials as an effective security force.

According to U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman:

“This is a 150-person unit that we believe can become a source of future leadership for the entire army.”

The attack took place near the offices of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), and some sources suggest that spy agency may have been the real target. The Gashaan (“shield”) is the NISA security wing.

3. The Attack May Be Retribution

Somalia, Mogadishu, terror, Al-shabaab

Somali residents look at the wreckage of two cars on January 2, 2014 in Mogadishu after they exploded the day before. (Abdi Wahab/Getty Images)

There have been a series of recent attacks in the longstanding fighting between al-Queda-backed separatists and Somali government forces, including air strikes carried out by U.S. forces against terrorist millitants.

Al-Shabaab insurgents killed at least 12 people and wounded 27 others, on September 8, of last year using a similar tactic, ramming a vehicle packed with explosives into a convoy of troops in Mogadishu.

Four days ago, a U.S. airstrike targeted a senior leader of Somalia’s al-Shabaab terror group. Officials identified the target as Abdishakur Tahlil, chief of intelligence for al-Shabaab.

According to Mark Wright, spokesperson for the Department of Defence, “The strike took place in the vicinity of Saacow, Somalia.

Then, two days later, al-Shabaab attacked a military base.

“Al-Shabaab attacked our base unexpectedly, early in the morning today. We lost seven soldiers,” Somali Captain Ahmed Idow told Reuters at the time.

4. Civilians Are Among the Victims

Inside an Al-Shabaab training campChannel 4 News reports from inside a jihadist training camp in Somalia where the much feared Al-Shabaab is training hundreds of fighters from around the world. Subscribe to Channel 4 News: Sign up for Snowmail, your daily preview of what is on Channel 4 News, sent straight to your inbox, here: Missed Channel 4 News? Catch up on the last seven days here: Channel 4 News weather forecast, with Liam Dutton: All the latest blog posts from the Channel 4 News on-screen talent:

Though the specific targets are thought to be Somalia anti-terror troops, the blast, in the area of a market and an airport, may have injured civilians as well.

Four people were killed, with one soldier injured, Somali government spokesman Ridwan Hajji Abdiweli said via twitter. “It is inhuman to attack innocent people,” he said.

Initial reports put the death toll at at least three, with at least 10 people injured, including civilians.

Somali Captain Mohamed Hussein told the Associated Press that most of the casualties were pedestrians walking along the road.

5. Al-Shabaab Is a Known Terror Group

al-Shabaab, Somalia, Mogadishu

Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

Al-Shabaab has been identified as a terrorist group, and has claimed responsibility for several attacks since the Somali Council of Islamic Courts took over most of southern Somalia in 2006.

According to the National Counter Terrorism Center:

The group was likely responsible for a wave of five coordinated suicide car bombings in October 2008 that simultaneously hit targets in two cities in northern Somalia, killing at least 26 people.

The group also claimed credit for the 2013 attack on a Kenyan mall that killed 68 over the course of a two-day hostage crisis.