MOGADISHU, Somalia — A large car bomb targeting a prominent police official exploded on Saturday in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least five people, the police and witnesses said.
The attack was claimed by Al Shabab, the Qaeda-linked Islamist group that has carried out waves of attacks for years in an effort to topple Somalia’s government.
The bomber, using an explosives-laden vehicle, struck the motorcade of the region’s police commissioner, Farhan Mohamud, at a busy intersection, said the Somali police spokesman Sadiiq Dudishe.
Five people were killed and nine others were wounded, Mr. Dudishe said, but the police commander survived.
“The objective of the terrorists was to get rid of the targeted police commander, other officers with him and any other civilian bystanders,” Mr. Dudishe said.
Al Shabab swiftly claimed responsibility, saying in a statement that the blast killed and wounded a “large number” of the police chief’s guards and destroyed multiple vehicles.
Mire Adan, who was a few yards from the scene, said the explosion “caused huge devastation and casualties of both police and civilians.” Another witness, Osman Adan, offered a similar account, saying that he saw several dead bodies, most of them civilians, and that “the whole area is messed up with smoke.”
The jihadist group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and launches frequent attacks against government and civilian targets.
It controlled the capital until 2011, when it was pushed out by African Union troops, but it still holds territory in the countryside.
Militants from the group staged an assault last week on a crowded tea shop in Mogadishu just a few hundreds yards from the headquarters of the Somali Intelligence Agency.
The attack at the cafe, often frequented by members of the Somali security forces, killed 10 people and wounded dozens.