A car bomb has killed and injured several soldiers and civilians outside of the Somali parliament in the capital, Mogadishu. The terrorist organization al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A Somali official, Captain Mohammed Hussein, said the car exploded at a checkpoint after it had been stopped by Somali troops. Police said that soldiers who were stationed outside the parliament building prevented the car bomb from reaching its target: the Somali parliament building.
"The suicide car bomb was targeting the parliament entrance but it was fired on from all sides as it approached the main gate," Nur Ahmed, a colonel in the police department, said.
Parliamentarian Dahir Amin Jesow also said that all the Somali lawmakers inside the building were safe.
The number of casualties remains unclear, with early reports from police and witnesses on the scene indicating that four people had died.
"I saw the dead bodies of three police and the severed body parts of what looked like the suicide bomber under the wreckage of the detonated car," eyewitness Ahmed Malin said.
Another eyewitness, Abdikarim Jirow, said about nine people were carried out of the area, while a photographer for the AFP news agency reported seeing about 13 wounded civilians.
Al-Shabab: 'We did it'
The Islamist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, in which its military spokesman Adulaziz Abu Musab said "we killed more than a dozen so-called police members after the sacrificial attack at the main entrance of parliament buildings."
Al-Shabab has targeted parliamentarians repeatedly in recent months. A spokesman described the parliament as a "military zone" and a legitimate target.
On Thursday, al Shabab killed a parliamentarian and his bodyguard for "collaborating with Christians". This reference relates to the fact that the government in Mogadishu has received help from Western powers and the African Union.
In February al-Shabab also assaulted the presidential place. A car bomb went off at the gates of the heavily-fortified compound, and this was followed by an attack by a suicide gunman which left 16 people dead.
Al-Shabab Islamist militants, who are affiliated with al Qaeda, had threatened to increase attacks during Ramadan, the Muslim fasting season.
as/se (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)