A Somali general and at least seven of his bodyguards have been killed by a suicide car bomber.
The attacker rammed a car carrying explosives into General Mohamed Jimale Goobale’s convoy near the defence ministry headquarters in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
Al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda aligned jihadist group, claimed responsibility for the attack and accused the general of plotting against them.
He had survived several previous assassination attempts.
The terror group staged the attack in the build-up to a vote for a new parliament and president, part of efforts to build a nation that has been ripped apart by two decades of war and chaos.
Security official Abdiaziz Mohamed said: ‘There was a heavy blast caused by a car loaded with explosives alongside the industrial road, several members of the military were killed in the incident including a senior commander.’
Witness Abdi Hassan added: ‘The blast was very huge, I saw smoke and fire overshadowing the whole area. General Gobale was killed in the suicide attack.’
Somalia’s Andalus radio, which is linked to Al-Shabab, said ‘a mujahid (fighter) was martyred as his suicide car bomb killed General Goobaanle.’
Last month, an Al-Shabab truck bomb exploded outside the Somali presidential palace and a popular hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people.
Less than two weeks earlier, a pair of suicide car bombings struck a government building, killing 23 people.
Last year, Al-Shabab gunmen killed nearly 150 people at Kenya’s Garissa University College. At least 67 people were killed at a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013.
Al Shabab wants to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state and is trying to topple the Western-backed government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is seeking re-election in the upcoming vote.
Voting for the 275-seat parliament is scheduled to start on September 25 and end on October 10, with new lawmakers sworn in on October 30.
Those lawmakers will, in turn, pick a president on October 30.
Due to security concerns, including the continuing Al-Shabab insurgency, voting will not be based on one-person-one-vote but instead about 14,000 people representing federal states across the nation will choose members of the legislative assembly.
That is a fraction of Somalia’s 11 million people, but is more than the 135 elders who picked the outgoing parliament in 2012.