At least 10 people have been killed in a huge explosion targeting a senior official in the southern Somali town of Baidoa, police and hospital staff say.
“The target was a pick-up truck transporting a senior local official,” police spokesman Mohamed Moalim Abdirahman said of the blast.
Medical worker Mohamed Adan said the hospital had received six dead bodies, and that “three others died from their wounds in the hospital”. Another dead body was collected by relatives direct for burial.
The town, which is under the control of government troops backed by African Union forces, was wrested off the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels two years ago.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Shebab have carried out a string of bombings and vowed to overthrow the war-torn country’s internationally-backed but fragile government.
Police sources said the blast had been a car bomb parked outside a busy bank.
The Shebab have been driven out of fixed positions in Somalia’s major towns by the UN-mandated AU force, but still regularly launch attacks that include bombings and guerilla-style raids.
Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of government or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities that they are winning the war against the Islamist fighters.
Continued conflict, compounded by poor rains and funding shortfalls, are threatening the few gains made in Somalia since an extreme famine nearly three years ago, with the United Nations and aid agencies warning the country could be sliding back into a food crisis.
A UN appeal for $US933 million ($A1.01 billion) in humanitarian aid for Somalia is so far only 15 per cent funded.
Some 250,000 people, around half of them young children, died in Somalia during the 2011 famine, according to the UN, which acknowledged it should have done more to prevent the tragedy.