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MOGADISHU: A suicide bomber who set out to assassinate a senior Somali security official blew up his car in central Mogadishu yesterday, missing his target but killing at least 10 people in the city’s deadliest attack this year, police and rebels said.
Witnesses said the car bomb exploded near a vehicle carrying Mogadishu security chief Khalif Ahmed Ilig and other officers along the capital’s busy Makkah Al Mukarram road. But at the last minute, a minibus drove by, taking the force of the blast which left Ilig with only minor injuries, witnesses added.
Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination.
“It was revenge. He (Ilig) had been killing and arresting Mogadishu residents,” Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said.
The Al Qaeda-linked movement has kept up a campaign of guerrilla-style bombings and killings more than 18 months after it was forced out of its bases in the city by Somali and other African troops.
Yesterday’s bomb was 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.
Bystanders helped pull the wounded from the burning minibus and teahouses along the route around 100 metres from the outer perimeter of the presidential palace.
Seven civilians, three government security officers and the bomber were killed, said police.
“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,” said senior police officer Abdiqadir Mohamud.
Last week, Mogadishu residents said government security forces had killed more than ten pardoned al Shabaab fighters, whose bodies were found dumped in the city’s streets, their hands and legs bound.
The authorities have pledged to investigate those killings. They followed the murder of two senior security officials, which al Shabaab said it was responsible for. The car bomb exploded a day after al Shabaab regained control of the southern city of Hudur after Ethiopian troops, who have been part of an African offensive against the militants, pulled out.