At least nine people were injured after several rounds of mortar shells hit the parliament building where the newly elected lawmakers were holding a joint session on Monday, police and witnesses said.
A police officer at the scene said two guards attached to an opposition leader were among those injured at Villa Hargeisa, which is located within the presidential palace in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
“Several mortar shells landed in the vicinity of the parliamentary building, or Villa Hargeisa, located within Villa Somalia, where the newly elected members of parliament were holding a joint session on the upcoming election of speakers and their deputies of the two houses,” a police officer who requested anonymity said on the phone.
He said the shelling happened a few minutes after the lawmakers approved measures to hold elections for the speakers of the House of the People and the Senate on April 26 and 27.
Al-Shabab militant group, which has intensified attacks to disrupt the elections, claimed responsibility for the latest attack, saying it was targeting the lawmakers.
Witnesses said the shells struck just as the lawmakers ended their joint session and were getting out of the building.
“It seems the attackers were targeting the members of parliament who were leaving Parliament since the mortar shells struck at the entrance of parliament,” Hussein Abdi, a witness, said.
Prime Minister Mohamed Roble has condemned the attack as a “cowardly act.”
“Today’s attempt was a cowardly act to frighten the Parliament which is within its constitutional obligation to ensure that the elections are over soon,” Roble said in a statement.
The prime minister praised the lawmakers’ efforts to race against time to complete the electoral process that will soon culminate in the election of the president.
Shabab militants have recently staged a series of attacks against delegates to disrupt the electoral process.