Somalia car bombs: Family of nine killed in Hiraan attack

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Pro-government forces have taken territory from al-Shabab in recent months

A family of nine have died in a double car bombing in central Hiraan province, Somalia, an eyewitness has told the BBC.

A further 26 people were also killed, the local deputy policy commissioner told the Reuters news agency.

The al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabab has said it was behind the attack.

The district commissioner of Mahas town said his home and that of a local MP were the targets.

Meanwhile the second explosion targeted the market, the mayor of Mahas, Mumin Mohamed Halane, told the BBC.

The blasts were so powerful that witnesses said people far away from the explosion sites were wounded by flying fragments.

“This was a horrible attack,” witness Adan Hassan told the AFP news agency, describing the dead bodies he saw.

Al-Shabab has been losing ground in recent months after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged “total war” against the Islamist militants in August, following an attack on a popular Mogadishu hotel, which saw more than 20 people die.

Two months later, twin car bomb explosions near a busy junction in Mogadishu killed at least 100 people. Al-Shabab also said it was behind that attack.

President Mohamud subsequently mobilised the Somali army and government-backed clan militias in a bid to take villages and towns from al-Shabab, which controls large swathes of the country.

Despite their losses of territory, al-Shabab has continued to carry out attacks in central and southern Somalia.

Both African Union forces and US funds have been allocated to assist Somalia in its fight against al-Shabab.

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