UPDATED WITH STATEMENT OF TURKISH HEALTH MINISTER; STORY REVISED THROUGHOUT
By Mohammed Dhaysane
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AA) - In the Somali capital Mogadishu, at least three people were killed and 20 injured, including several Turkish nationals, when a suicide car bomb targeted a police convoy escorting Turkish contractors on Saturday, said officials.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency over the phone, Somali government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Oronjo confirmed the attack in the town of Afgoye, in the lower Shabelle region.
"Several people including soldiers were killed and 20 others wounded, and casualties could rise," he said.
He also said among those injured were Somalia’s deputy commander of special forces.
Separately, Bashir Ahmed, a police official in Afgoye, told Anadolu Agency that three people, including soldiers, were killed in the attack.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu said that some four to six Turkish citizens, including building contractors, were injured in the attack.
On Twitter, Fahrettin Koca said four Somali and two Turkish citizens who were seriously injured in the attack are in surgery.
"The injured are being treated at Mogadishu’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan Training and Research Hospital," a Turkish-built and -run hospital, he said.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the al-Qaeda-linked terror group al-Shabaab is a persistent threat in the Horn of Africa country.
Last week, at least three people were killed when a roadside bomb targeted security forces guarding Turkish nationals working on road construction outside Mogadishu, in an al-Shabaab-claimed attack.
On Dec. 28, at least 85 people, including two Turkish nationals, were killed and over 150 others wounded in a truck suicide attack in Mogadishu, in another attack claimed by al-Shabaab.
Turkey has strong historical ties with Somalia on the principle of “win-win” relations, including over 150 development aid projects carried out by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency since 2011.
* Writing and contribution by Fahri Aksut in Ankara