At least 10 people have been killed by a car bomb claimed by al-Shabab in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, police have said.
Monday’s attack targeted Khalif Ahmed Ilig, the Mogadishu security chief, in one of the bloodiest assaults in the war-ravaged capital in recent months.
Witnesses said the car bomb exploded near a vehicle carrying Ilig and other officers along the busy Maka al-Mukarram road. A minibus driving by took the force of the blast.
Bystanders helped pull the wounded from the burning minibus and teahouses along the route around 100 metres from the outer perimeter of the presidential palace.
Seven civilians, three government security officers and the bomber were killed, police said.
“Most of the people who died were on board the minibus – civilians. This public vehicle coincidentally came between the government car and the car bomb when it was hit. Littered at the scene are human hands and flesh,” senior police officer Abdiqadir Mohamud said.
Al-Shabab said the attempted assassination was an act of revenge.
“He [Ilig] had been killing and arresting Mogadishu residents,” the group’s spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told Reuters news agency.
The anti-government fighters have vowed to topple President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office last year after being chosen by the country’s new parliament.
While al-Shabab in recent months has been on the back foot in Somalia, having lost a string of key towns to a 17,000-strong African Union force fighting alongside Somali soldiers, the group remains a potent threat.
Large rural areas remain under its control and the group’s fighters have carried out a series of guerrilla attacks in areas supposed to be under government control.
On Sunday al-Shabab retook the southern town of Hudur – the capital of Bakool region – after Ethiopian troops pulled out of the town.
The recapture of Hudur marks a sharp turnaround for al-Shabab as the first territorial victory for several months.
Mogadishu has been rocked by several small attacks – including both car bombs and suicide attackers – in recent months.