MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Islamist militants in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, set off a vehicle packed with explosives next to a cafe near a police building on Wednesday, killing at least three police officers.
The Islamist al Shabaab group, which wants to topple the Western-backed government, claimed responsibility. A spokesman for the group told Reuters that 10 police officers were killed, a figure that was higher than the three deaths police reported.
Al Shabaab often cites a higher death toll than the figure given by officials.
“Three police officers died in this car bomb,” Ali Mohamed Hirsi, the commander of Mogadishu police, told reporters at the scene, where blood was visible near the tea shop frequented by officers. “The police officers were among police being trained.”
Police said a second device went off, but caused no casualties after police spotted it beforehand and caught two men in the small, three-wheeled vehicle.
In the past two weeks, al Shabaab has launched mortar bomb attacks near the presidential palace, blown up a car bomb near a busy park in Mogadishu, and set off twin blasts in a town northwest of the capital. Dozens of people have been killed.
U.S. air strikes targeted an al Shabaab facility on Saturday and U.S. officials said more than 150 fighters were killed. Al Shabaab confirmed an attack on an area they controlled but said the U.S. casualty figure was exaggerated without giving their own number.
Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Robert Birsel