MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Seven people were killed Sunday morning when a suicide bomber attempted to ram a car laden with explosives into a military convoy escorting a four-member Qatari delegation.
Gen. Garad Nor Abdulle, a senior police official, said the members of the Qatari delegation who were being escorted in the interior minister’s convoy were unharmed and safely reached their hotel.
Gen. Abdulle said the interior minister was not in the convoy.
Mohamed Abdi, an officer at the scene of the blast, said four civilians and a soldier died immediately. Another two people died at the hospital, and 18 were being treated of wounds from the blast, said Dr. Duniya Mohamed Ali at the Medina Hospital.
The Qatari delegates are involved in development projects in Mogadishu, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.
Mr. Mohamud blamed al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab for the attack and said “suspects” have been arrested.
After the explosion, soldiers fired into the air to disperse crowds that had gathered at the blast site at the busy KM4 junction.
Separately, four Somali soldiers were wounded Sunday when a roadside bomb struck a government vehicle in Deynile district in Mogadishu’s northwest, said Capt. Ali Jimale of the Somali police.
The Somali government four days ago reopened key roads that had been closed for security reasons in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The roads were closed after the government received intelligence that militants were planning attacks, officials said.
KM4 is among the busiest roads in Mogadishu, largely used by government officials and African Union forces. It connects the presidential compound and other government offices to the airport.
The car bombing falls into a pattern of attacks blamed on the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has been pushed out of much of the areas it occupied in south and central Somalia by African Union troops.
Al-Shabab once controlled almost all of Mogadishu. African Union and Somali forces pushed the radical rebels out of the city in 2011, but the fighters have continued to carry out bomb attacks.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on Somali’s Supreme Court last month that killed 35, including nine attackers.
Somalia‘s prime minister said that several experienced foreign fighters took part in attack on the Supreme Court, the most serious Islamic extremist attack on Mogadishu in years, while other officials indicated the explosive devices were more advanced than normal, a possible indication of greater involvement by al Qaeda. The attack included six suicide bombings and two car bombs.
Al-Shabab boasts several hundred foreign fighters, including some from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Al-Shabab also recruits fighters from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.