Mogadishu: At least eight people were killed Monday by a car bomb in central Mogadishu in one of the bloodiest attacks in the war-ravaged capital in recent months, police said.
Security sources added that a top intelligence official was the target of the attack, and that he was wounded in the blast, although there was no immediate official confirmation.
Police official Mohamed Duale said: “We’ve counted at least eight dead so far. It was a car bomb attack near the National Theatre.”
A suicide bomber in a car laden with explosives war reported to have driven into the vehicle carrying security officials.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, but Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents have launched a series of guerrilla-style attacks in Mogadishu.
“Many have been killed, some of them were in a minibus that was hit by the blast,” said Hassan Salad, who witnessed Monday’s attack.
“This is a disaster, there is smoke and dead bodies thrown all around.”
The insurgents have vowed to topple President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office last year after being chosen by the country’s new parliament.
While the Shebab in recent months have 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, they remain a potent threat.
Large rural areas remain under their control and they have carried out a series of guerrilla attacks in areas supposed to be under government control.
On Sunday the Shebab 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 the Shebab 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.
Monday’s attack is the worst in the city since September, when two suicide bombers killed 18 people in a restaurant.
Somalia has been ravaged by conflict since 1991 but a new UN-backed government took power in September, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled administration.
Many have said the new government offers the most serious hope for stability since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.