A car bomb has exploded near the entrance of Mogadishu's heavily-guarded airport complex. Somali police say at least six people were killed, mostly civilians. They warn that the toll could rise.
Somali police said a car bomb was detonated close to a tea shop at the road junction outside Mogadishu's airport on Thursday. They put the initial toll at six killed and 15 wounded.
The United Nations mission in Somalia, UNSOM, said the bomb went off near a convoy of UN vehicles shortly after midday, local time.
"A UN car was damaged but no UN staff were injured. Four Somali security escorts were lightly injured," UNSOM said.
It expressed "deep sorrow at the reported deaths and injuries of Somali bystanders."
Airport entrance 'busy'
"We are still investigating the incident, the toll could rise anytime," police official Said Mohammed told the news agency AFP. "The airport was busy when the explosion occurred," he added.
"A car was parked near the airport gate. It detonated," said another police official Mohammed Abdi Rahman.
Mogadishu's closely-guarded airport complex also houses the base of the African Union force AMISOM as well as a number of foreign diplomatic missions and United Nations offices.
The attack bore all the hallmarks of al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda linked Islamist group that has fought to overthrow Somalia's internationally-backed government.
Reuters quoted a senior spokesman for al-Shabab, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, as saying the group had claimed responsibility for the blast.
Britain's ambassador to Somalia Neil Wigan, whose embassy is also within the high-security airport complex, said on Twitter that he had heard a "major explosion" that sent smoke into the air.
African Union peacekeeping troops, mandated by the United Nations, pushed al-Shabab out of Mogadishu in 2011 but the Islamist militants continued to penetrate the Somali capital.
Thursday's attack coincided with an apparent upsurge of Shebab bombings and mortar attacks in and around Mogadishu in recent weeks.
Last Monday, two car bombs exploded in Mogadishu, one outside a hotel. In total five people were wounded, including a senior Somali regional government official.
Last month three bombs exploded in close succession outside a hotel frequented by government officials, killing at least 11 people.
Somlia is rebuilding after more than two decades of civil war. The Islamist rebels control swathes of countryside outside Mogadishu, notably the southern Shabelle province.
Germany is considering whether to contribute 20 military trainers to a European Union training mission in Mogadishu. It was previously located in Uganda.
ipj/jlw (AFP, Reuters,