Somalia car bomb explodes near convoy of top army officials

It also came a day after a military court in Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland executed five al-Shabaab terrorists convicted of militancy and murdering two Puntland senior officials.

Irfid, who was appointed just three days ago by Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo in a major security shake-up, escaped unharmed.

At the blast scene, the wreckage of a civilian minibus destroyed by the powerful bomb was in the street, with a pool of blood under the vehicle.

Al Shabaab, waging an increasingly deadly campaign of bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government, was behind the attack, according to Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Qaeda-affiliated group's spokesman for military operations. "There have been fatalities but I don't know how many", he added.

A government official said given the state of the dead bodies, it would be hard to give an exact death toll.

This is the second auto bomb attack in a week in Mogadishu.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed who was elected in February, replaced his military and intelligence chiefs and instructed the army to prepare a new offensive against al-Shabab extremists.

The new Somali army chief, General Ahmed Mohamed Jimale Irfid, has survived an assassination attempt after a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle near his convoy close to the Somali Defense Ministry in Mogadishu, witnesses said.

  • Leroy Wright