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Somali security officers secure the scene of a suicide car explosion in front of the national theatre in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. REUTERS/Feisal Omar(reuters_tickers)
By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A car bomb targeting senior officials leaving a military base in Mogadishu killed at least 15 people and destroyed a minibus carrying civilians, the Somali military said on Sunday, an attack claim by Islamist al Shabaab militants.
It occurred a week after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed replaced his security chiefs and called on al Shabaab fighters to surrender within 60 days in return for education and jobs
"At least 15 people, mostly civilians, died in (Sunday's) the blast," Somali Major Hussein Nur told Reuters. "We do not know the exact figure of casualties. All the people on board the ruined minibus perished. Soldiers and other private security guards also died."
A Reuters witness at the scene of the explosion saw a wrecked minibus, human flesh and damage to the tarmac road. Roads were sealed off even to private ambulances.
A government official said given the state of the dead bodies, it would be difficult to give an exact death toll.
"Many people died but we cannot know the exact figure of casualties. We cannot count human flesh," Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for Mogadishu's mayor, told reporters.
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.
Nur said the car bomber appeared intent on hitting a convoy carrying Somali military commander Ahmed Mohamed Jimale and other senior officers, but was not close enough to cause any casualties among his entourage.
Al Shabaab confirmed Jimale was their intended target, and that they had killed seven of his bodyguards in the attack.
(Additional reporting by Abdirahman Hussein; writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Mark Heinrich)