At least seven people were killed Saturday, among them a prominent Somali official, in a bomb attack in the centre of the Somali capital Mogadishu, police and security officials said.
Security sources said they believed a bomb was attached to a car being driven by Abdikafi Hilowle, a police official and former secretary for the city’s administration, and detonated remotely. Other officials said the blast may have been from a roadside bomb.
The attack took place near the busy KM4 junction in central Mogadishu, close to the Turkish embassy.
“Several people have been killed, there are at least seven, including four civilians and three policemen,” police officer Mohammed Duale told AFP at the scene.
“It was apparently targeting a former official who died in the attack, some of his security guards were also among the dead,” added Abdi Osmail, a Somali security official, told AFP.
Somali security force members carry away a wounded civilian following a suicide car bomb blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Sunday, May 5, 2013. A Somali police official at the scene said four civilians and a soldier were killed after the suicide bomber attempted to ram a car laden with explosives into a military convoy. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
Witnesses saw the official’s dead body being removed from the destroyed car, although one witness said the corpse had been “burned beyond recognition”.
“The security forces sealed off the area opening fire to disperse approaching onlookers, it was a horrible scene. A mother and her children were also among the casualties,” said eyewitness Muhidin Adan.
The attack is the latest in a string of bombings in the city attributed to Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels, who are battling to overthrow the war-torn country’s internationally-backed but fragile government.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Shebab have said they were behind a series of similar attacks in recent weeks.
The Shebab have been driven out of fixed positions in Somalia’s major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force, but still regularly launch attacks that include bombings and guerrilla-style raids.
Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of government or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities that they are winning the war against the Islamist fighters.
Last month Shebab said they assassinated two MPs in the space of 24 hours in Mogadishu in a shooting and car bombing. In February, Shebab militants carried out a major attack against the heavily fortified presidential palace, killing officials and guards in heavy gun battles.
In a separate incident Saturday, another Somali lawmaker escaped an assassination bid after he was tipped off that an explosive device had been attached to his car. The device went off and destroyed the car while parked outside a hotel, officials said.