Top Somali police chief on Saturday survived an assassination bid by Al-Shabaab militants in a powerful car bomb blast in Mogadishu that left five people dead and a trail of destruction.
The bomber, using an explosives-laden vehicle, struck regional police commissioner Farhan Mohamud’s motorcade at a busy intersection in the capital, Somali police spokesman Sadiiq Dudishe told AFP.
The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab Islamist group, which has been fighting to topple Somalia’s federal government for years and has carried out waves of attacks.
The blast tore through walls near the busy road, ripping off roof panels and leaving the area littered with shells of charred cars.
Dudishe said five people died and nine others were wounded but the police commander — who headed the force in the Benadir region that encompasses Mogadishu — survived unscathed.
“The objective of the terrorists was to get rid of the targeted police commander, other officers with him, and any other civilian bystanders,” he said.
Mohamud — who had previously led a special police unit carrying out anti-Shabaab operations — was in April promoted to the rank of general and nominated as the overall commander of police in Benadir.
He replaced his former boss who had been sacked for trying to stop a parliamentary session.
– Narrow escape –
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, saying in a statement the blast killed and wounded a “large number” of the police chief’s guards and destroyed multiple vehicles.
Mire Adan, who was a few metres from the scene, said the explosion “caused huge devastation and casualties of both police and civilians”.
“The whole area is messed up with smoke as the blast caused fire and I saw several dead bodies most of them civilians,” said another witness Osman Adan.
Tuk-tuk driver Muktar Ganey said he only narrowly missed Saturday’s blast because he was held up in traffic.
“I was transporting some clients to a shop close to the busy intersection when the blast occurred. I was very lucky that I was delayed in the traffic jam a few minutes before it occurred. Otherwise, I would be dead or wounded by now,” said Ganey.
The jihadist group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and launches frequent attacks against government and civilian targets.
It controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops, but still holds territory in the countryside.
Last week, Al-Shabaab fighters staged an assault on a crowded tea shop in the capital just a few hundreds of metres from the headquarters of the Somali Intelligence Agency.
The attack at the cafe, often frequented by members of the Somali security forces, killed 10 people and wounded dozens.