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Somali death toll rises to 26 from weekend blasts in capital

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The death toll rose to 26 from Saturday’s twin bombings in Somalia’s capital, police and hospital sources said Monday.

The number rose because several victims of the suicide car blast near the rear entrance of the presidential palace died in hospitals in Mogadishu, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein. The toll could rise further as several of the 20 wounded have serious injuries, hospital sources confirmed.

Among the dead were seven soldiers who were escorting a government official through a checkpoint on their way to the presidential palace.

The second smaller suicide car bomb was detonated close to an underground prison run by the country’s intelligence. Last week, the government announced that it closed Godka Jilaow prison as parts of efforts aimed at improving the country’s human rights record.

Others killed include three staffers from the London-based Universal TV station, including prominent journalist Awil Dahir Salad, said Capt. Hussein.

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The bomber targeted the checkpoint near the rear entrance of the heavily fortified palace, he said. A lawmaker and a deputy mayor of Mogadishu were among those wounded, he said.

The blasts appeared to target people heading to work on what was a business day in the Horn of Africa nation.

Al-Shabab, Somalia’s extremist rebels who are allied to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The most active Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa, al-Shabab was pushed out of Mogadishu several years ago but continues to control large parts of rural southern and central Somalia from where they launch bombings that hit the capital city.

The U.S. military, which partners with Somali forces and a 20,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission, has greatly increased airstrikes against al-Shabab under the Trump administration. At least 47 U.S. strikes have been carried out this year.

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