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10 killed in Somali car blast

MOGADISHU, Mar 18, 2013, Reuters: 0:42 IST

Qaeda-linked outfit claims responsibility for suicide bombing

at a loss: A Somali woman reacts near the site of a car bomb in Mogadishu on Monday. AFP

A suicide car bomber killed at least 10 people on Monday in the worst attack in the Somali capital this year when he tried to kill Mogadishu’s security chief near the presidential palace, police and rebels said.

Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group al-Shabaab said it carried out the attack along Maka-al-Mukarram road that runs between the palace and the national theatre, a route lined by tearooms that were engulfed in fire from the blast.

A public minibus driving along the road burst into flames, when the suicide bomber set off explosives packed into his car in an attempt to kill Khalif Ahmed Ilig, the Mogadishu security chief, police and the rebels said.

Ambulance sirens wailed through the city’s congested streets and a witness at the scene saw pools of blood on the ground. Residents joined in the rescue operations, pulling victims from the tea-houses and the minibus.

Police said seven civilians, three government security officers, and the bomber died in the
blast that brought part of the city to a standstill. At least seven others were injured.

“The suicide car bomber targeted a senior national security officer whose car was passing near the theatre,” senior police officer Abdiqadir Mohamud said, adding that the official had been injured. “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.”

The explosion could be heard several kilometres away in Mogadishu’s central business district.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected last year in the country’s first national vote since dictator Siad Barre’s overthrow in 1991, was in another part of the city during the blast, police said. The presidential palace stands about 100 metres from where the explosion struck.

Civil war followed the fall of Barre, which left Somalia without effective central government and awash with weapons, ushering in two decades of turmoil.

Security in Mogadishu has improved greatly since a military offensive drove Islamist rebels allied to al-Qaeda out of the city in August 2011. But bombings and assassinations in Mogadishu, blamed on militants, still occur often.

The attack on Monday was the worst so far this year, police said, a stark reminder of two decades of civil strife, in a war-torn country where the central government depends heavily on a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force for its survival.

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