Somali officials say two explosions Wednesday in the Lower Shabelle region have killed at least 18 people, including the mayor of the region’s capital.  Islamist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack. Mohammed Dhaysane reports from Mogadishu.

The first attack was a suicide bombing that targeted officials in the town of Merca, the capital of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.  The blast killed the mayor of the town, Abdullahi Ali Wafow, and 10 other people, while wounding a number of the mayor’s bodyguards.

A security official in the region told VOA by phone that the bombing took place near the Merca administration headquarters and was aimed at the mayor.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the fatalities could still rise given the size of the explosion.

The Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. 

Merca is a port city located 92 kilometers from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

In a separate incident Wednesday, a bomb exploded at a busy livestock market in the town of Afgoye.  Police say the attack was a landmine explosion.  

Eyewitnesses and medical sources in Afgoye told VOA the blast killed seven people and wounded 14 others.  Al-Shabab media said the explosion killed two soldiers but didn’t claim responsibility.  

The group said it attacked a convoy carrying Kenyan troops in bombings near the town of Mandera, in northeastern Kenya.  

The Islamist militant group seems to have increased the size and scope of its attacks in recent days. A force of several hundred Shabab fighters crossed into eastern Ethiopia last week, sparking confrontations with Ethiopian security forces. 

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