At least five people were killed Monday in a huge explosion targeting a senior official in the southern Somali town of Baidoa, police said.
“The target was a pick-up truck transporting a senior local official,” police spokesman Mohamed Moalim Abdirahman said.
“He escaped the attack, but two of his security guards were killed along with three civilians.”
The town, which is under the control of government troops backed by African Union forces, was wrested off the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels two years ago.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Shebab have carried out a string of bombings and vowed to overthrow the war-torn country’s internationally-backed but fragile government.
“I saw the dead bodies of five people around the site of blast… several other people were wounded,” witness Hassan Nurow said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, but some witnesses said a suicide bomber had rammed a car laden with explosives into the pick-up.
The Shebab have been driven out of fixed positions in Somalia’s major towns by the UN-mandated AU force, but still regularly launch attacks that include bombings and guerrilla-style raids.
Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of government or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities that they are winning the war against the Islamist fighters.
Continued conflict, compounded by poor rains and funding shortfalls, are threatening the few gains made in Somalia since an extreme famine less than three years ago, with the United Nations and aid agencies warning the troubled country could be sliding back into a food crisis.