At least seven people were killed on May 3, among them a prominent Somali official, in a bomb attack by Islamist militants in the centre of the capital Mogadishu, 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.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels said they carried out the attack, branding Hilowle “an enemy of Allah” and accusing him of working with foreign intelligence services.
“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 of the attack, near the busy KM4 junction in central Mogadishu and close to the Turkish embassy.
“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.
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.
Shebab’s military spokesman, Abdiaziz Abu Musab, said the group carried out the attack and vowed more assassinations were to follow.
“He was the enemy of Allah sought for crimes he committed against young Muslims. We are happy finally we killed him,” the spokesman said, adding: “Many others are on the list to be eradicated.”
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 intense gun battles.
In a separate incident on May 3, 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.