Car bomb kills two in Somali capital

MOGADISHU Fri Dec 14, 2012 6:56am EST

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A suicide car bomber killed two people in the center of the Somali capital on Friday in a blast that appeared to target an African Union peacekeepers' convoy, police and residents said.

Security in Mogadishu has improved greatly since Islamist rebels allied to al Qaeda fled the capital more than a year ago under military pressure, but the coastal city remains dogged by bombings and assassinations blamed on the militants.

The bomber struck on the Maka al-Mukaram road, a thoroughfare lined by construction sites and tea-rooms that last year was a frontline in the battle for control of Mogadishu.

"An AMISOM armored convoy passed us and just after we heard a loud explosion. We looked back and saw thick smoke," Samira Hussein, who was travelling down the road in a minibus taxi, told Reuters at the blast site where the twisted wreckage of the car smoldered.

The blast killed the bomber and two civilians and wounded seven others, Abdifatah Sabriye, a senior police commander in Mogadishu's Waberi district, told Reuters.

It was not clear who was behind the attack. The al Shabaab rebel group that has claimed numerous similar attacks was not immediately available for comment.

Locals said the street, which links the commercial K4 district with parliament, was quieter than usual as the blast happened during Friday prayers.

In late September, al Shabaab withdrew from the southern port of Kismayu, their last major urban stronghold, a retreat that signaled their demise as a quasi-conventional military force. The rebels vowed to step up a campaign of suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.

(Reporting by Abdirahman Hussein and Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Angus Macswan)

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