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Somalia truck bombing: Is Al Shabab back in Mogadishu?

After a hasty retreat from Somalia's capital, Mogadishu in August, the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al Shabab claimed Tuesday's suicide truck bombing that killed more than 65 people.

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A powerful suicide blast in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday by the Islamist group Al Shabab has killed at least 65 people, and once again shaken what little confidence Somalis have in their transitional government.

The truck bomb, driven by two suicide bombers, struck a building compound housing government employees, and killed scores of college students queuing up for results of a scholarship program that would have allowed many Somali students to study in Turkey.

On an Islamist website, Al Shabab took credit for the attack, saying: “Our mujahideen fighters have entered a place where ministers and AMISOM foreigners stay.” AMISOM is the African Union Mission in Somalia, a peacekeeping force composed of some 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops with 3,000 more on the way.

The blast marks a turning point of sorts in the ongoing efforts to restore stability to Somalia, a country that has been racked by more than 20 years of civil war since the fall of the government of socialist President Siad Barre in 1991.

After years of fighting Somalia's weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM in the streets of Mogadishu, Al Shabab pulled out of the capital in early August, announcing a tactical retreat and a promise to return with less conventional methods of war.

Today's attack – the group's most deadly suicide bombing to date – shows that Al Shabab can still strike in the city at will. The blast also serves as a reminder of the weakness of the TFG, says E.J. Hogendoorn, a Somalia expert at the International Crisis Group in Washington.

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