A car bomb allegedly targeting a convoy of Puntland Maritime Police Forces (PMPF) exploded in a market in Bosaso, often dubbed Puntland‚Äôs economic hub.
Puntland officials blame al-Shabaab for the attack as many observers await the group to claim responsibility officially.
The Puntland government¬†stated¬†that three soldiers and four civilians had been killed in the blast along with 37 others who are injured;¬†these numbers may rise as updated reports emerge.
In video of the aftermath, sporadic gunfire can be heard as injured civilians flee the scene while others stay to help or film the incident.
The attack comes as the Puntland region prepares for January 2014 presidential elections in which incumbent Abdirahman Farole has cited his successful¬†fight against al-Shabaab, among other accomplishments, as a key reason why the to-be-named 66 member parliament should re-elect him.
Forces ‚ÄúTrained by SARACEN‚Äù Targeted
Pro-al-Shabaab sites like SomaliMemo¬†issued reports¬†highlighting that the PMPF who were targeted in Thursday‚Äôs bombing were trained by private military firm SARACEN International (now Sterling Corporate Services ‚Äì SCS), a company that the¬†UN accused¬†of flouting the arms embargo in Somalia and¬†other violations.
The PMPF has showed signs of success through its arrest of illegal fishermen, but there are allegations that these forces¬†have been used for¬†political purposes¬†in at least one incident involving Puntland presidential candidate and former PM Abdiweli Gaas.
According to reports from October 2012, SCS‚Äìwhich was allegedly¬†funded by the UAE‚Äìno longer trains¬†the PMPF.[Update] However, Reuters¬†alleges¬†that 2 foreigners who allegedly worked for SARACEN were present with the convoy that was targeted Thursday but were unharmed in the blast‚Äìraising questions about their current role in training the PMPF.
Last month, al-Shabaab‚Äôs Puntland contingent based in the nearby Galgala mountains¬†attacked Bosaso‚Äôs central jail¬†where some of the group‚Äôs alleged members are being held.
Puntland security forces say they successfully repelled the militants after a firefight lasting hours.
However,¬†the deputy prison chief was reported to be killed in the attack.
In October 2008, al-Shabaab targeted Bosaso and Hargeisa in a coordinated string of attacks in Puntland and Somaliland, killing at least 30 and injuring an estimated 80 people.