MOGADISHU, Somalia – An explosives-laden car that apparently was targeting a truck full of Somali government officials instead hit a civilian car and exploded, setting a nearby mini-bus on fire and killing at least seven people Monday, police and witnesses said.
Flames and smoke rose over the explosion as emergency vehicles drove to the scene. The blast happened close to the Somali government's headquarters.
Mohamed Abdi, a police officer who was injured in the blast, said it appeared that the target of the attack was a truck of Somali intelligence officials. Abdi Mohamud Aden, a Somali police captain, said at least seven people were killed and 10 wounded. He said that number could rise.
A journalist who was wounded in the blast while sitting in a nearby restaurant said several people inside the restaurant were injured.
The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab has continued to carry out terror attacks in Somalia's capital since being pushed out of Mogadishu in late 2011. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The blast rattled buildings nearby, shattering glass windows. After the attack, soldiers fired in the air to try to open blocked streets so patients could get to hospitals. Inside Mogadishu's Daru Shifa hospital, a wounded soldier cried out for aid as blood gushed from his badly wounded right leg.
"I was trying to cross the street when the blast went off," he said. "Terrorists want to deprive us of peace," he said, biting his lips in agony.
Shocked bystanders stared at the pools of blood on the ground at the blast site. One woman cried.
"They (al-Shabab) are the enemies of Somalia and Muslims," she said. "They kill our children, elderly and everyone. They are brutal and inhumane and feed blood and terror with their minds."
Al-Shabab controlled much of south-central Somalia, including Mogadishu, from 2006 to mid-2011, when African Union troops ousted the fighters from the capital. Since then al-Shabab has been on the run, as troops from Uganda, Burundi and Kenya have expanded areas under the control of the Somali government.