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Al-Shabaab claims Somali car bombing

18 February 2012, 15:30

Mogadishu - The Islamist al-Shabaab rebel movement claimed responsibility for a car bomb which exploded at a major police building in Somalia's war-torn capital Mogadishu on Friday, wounding a police officer.

"A car full of explosives, which was seized by the security forces this morning, exploded - a policeman was injured," said Abdulahi Ahmed, a Somali police official. "We are still investigating the incident."

The blast occurred in the grounds of the Criminal Investigation Department of Somalia's police, close to the busy central K4 roundabout.

Witnesses said the car exploded while parked inside the building, destroying the perimeter wall.

"The car exploded in a parking lot, the blast was very heavy, and smoke and fire shot up high into the sky," said Farah Adan, a witness.

The al-Qaeda-allied Shabaab Islamist insurgents claimed responsibility for the blast on the Twitter social networking site. They said the car bomb was triggered remotely.

"The mujahadeens managed to get a car bomb into the complex before exploding it remotely 30 minutes later," the group said in its online message.

Several security officials have been recently killed or wounded after apparently abandoned bombs were believed to have been defused, but then set off by a second hidden detonator.

The attack was the latest in a string of blasts including roadside bombs and grenade explosions that have rocked the dangerous Somali capital in recent months.

The city has seen a rise in such attacks since the Shabaab abandoned fixed positions there in August and switched to guerrilla tactics against the Western-backed government and African Union troops.

Last week a suicide bomber killed at least 15 people at a cafe near the presidential palace, the deadliest blast in the anarchic city since October, when a truck packed with explosives killed at least 82 people.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991 and the government in Mogadishu is propped up by a 10 000-strong AU force from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.

Hardline Shebab insurgents control large parts of central and southern Somalia, but are facing increasing pressure from regional armies, including Kenyan troops in the south and Ethiopia's army in the south and west.

The United Nations says Somalia is suffering one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Thousands of Somalis are fleeing into Mogadishu after AU-backed government soldiers this week launched renewed attacks against holdout Shebab positions on the outskirts of the capital.

More than 7 200 people have fled into the city from the rebel-held Afgoye corridor, a 40km stretch of makeshift camps along a road, home to some 410 000 people, the UN refugee agency said on Friday.

"UNHCR fears for the safety of the displaced and we urge all armed groups and forces to make the protection of civilians a priority," the agency said.

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