|Sheikh Hassan died from wounds suffered after an explosion at his house in the capital Mogadishu [Reuters]
Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, the Somali interior ministry, has died after a suicide attack at his home, apparently carried out by a niece, a security official said.
"The minister died in hospital," Adan Mohamed said on Friday. "The information we have so far indicates that a young woman, the minister's niece, carried out the attack."
The statement was confirmed by other security sources, who said the woman had stayed at the minister's Mogadishu home for the last three days.
"The minister passed away and was killed in a terrorist attack," Adulkarim Jama, the information minister, told Radio Mogadishu.
Sheikh Hassan's leg had been smashed and shrapnel had got into many parts of his body, senior police officer Nur Farah said.
"I was at the gate when a veiled woman went into the house," Ahmed Mohamed, the minister's driver, said.
"Suddenly, I heard a loud explosion. I saw the flesh of the suicide bomber in the balcony near the minister's house. I went into his room and saw him lying injured."
The driver said he believed the suicide bomber - who was related to maids that work for the minister, as well as to the minister himself, and a regular visitor to the house - had intended to enter Hassan's room, but was stopped by security personnel, at which point she detonated a device.
"She used to come to the house and was never suspected or inspected. She always had veil and face cover. But today she put on explosive belt and jacket under her veils," he said.
Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia have been rocked by two days of protests, with demonstrators railing against a deal to extend the mandates of the country's president and parliament.
Hundreds of supporters of the prime minister, who must resign under the terms of the deal, marched through the city's rubble-strewn streets chanting support for the prime minister.
Police have warned Mogadishu residents to watch out for attacks by al-Shabab rebels, who security forces said may take advantage by carrying out attacks.
Among al-Shabab's stated objectives is to implement its own strict interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia, in Somalia.
While al-Shabab appeared to be on the back foot following a sustained government push in which Hassan was a leading figure, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has warned a bitter power struggle among the country's political leaders risks unravelling the military gains.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
First clan warlords and now al-Shabab members ensured the government, which is protected by AMISOM troops, controls little territory outside parts of the capital Mogadishu.