Mogadishu — At least eight people were killed by a car bomb in central Mogadishu on Monday in one of the bloodiest attacks in the war-ravaged capital in recent months.
The target was Khalif Ereg, the intelligence chief of the district controlling Mogadishu. Sources says he was injured in the attack.
The explosion also killed a number of people travelling in a minibus. Among the dead were schoolchildren, according to Somali army Colonel Hassan Abdi.
" The peace spoilers do not only target the government officials as they did today, as you can see now, they targeted and killed civilians traveling on minibus," he said at the scene. "Among the dead were schoolchildren. Their cruelty has left an indelible impression on the civilians, so we have to fight against them."
Flames and smoke rose over the explosion as emergency vehicles drove to the scene, a witness said.
The blast happened close to the presidential palace.
The latest medical sources said that the number of dead was eight as the wounded exceeded 15, mostly civilians.
Monday's attack is one of the bloodiest assaults in the war-ravaged capital since the beginning of the year.
The armed Islamist group Al-Shebab claimed responsibility for the attack.
"The Mujahideen were responsible for the attack against the non-believer Khalif Ereg," Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told the AFP wire service. "One holy person took the sacrificial act for the sake of Allah."
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 Shebab 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-Shebab retook the southern town of Hudur, the capital of Bakool region, after Ethiopian troops pulled out of the town.