Al-Shabaab militants detonated two car bombs killing at least 35 people and leveling several houses in central Somalia’s Hiraan region on Wednesday, a government-allied militia and a local elder said.

The death toll from a twin car bomb attack in central Somalia’s Hiraan region has risen to 35, up from an earlier toll of at least 15, a senior police official told Reuters on Wednesday. Al-Shabaab, part of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, has been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s government since 2007. Although it was driven out of Hiraan last year by government forces and allied clan militias known as Macawisley, it has continued to stage attacks.

We were awoken this morning by two huge explosions,” Ahmed Nur, a local elder, recounted. “We have seen many houses levelled to the ground.”

The district’s commissioner Mumin Mohamed Halane told state radio that one bomb targeted his house and the other hit the home of a federal lawmaker.

Al-Shabaab’s media office claimed responsibility in a statement, saying it had targeted “apostate militias and soldiers”.

The insurgents have found themselves hard-pressed since August when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud rolled out a military offensive shortly after coming into office.

The U.S.- and African Union-backed government forces and Macawisley have killed, according to the government, hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters and recaptured dozens of settlements, although different sides often give conflicting accounts of clashes.

Despite the offensive, Al-Shabaab has carried out frequent attacks in recent months targeting, among others, government installations and hotels in the capital Mogadishu.

The activities of Al-Shabaab have also constrained international aid deliveries, compounding the impact of the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in four decades.



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