MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Nine people were killed Wednesday after a suicide bomber tried to ram his explosives-laden car into a convoy of vehicles transporting Emirati diplomats in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a police official said.
The diplomats from the United Arab Emirates were unharmed and most of the victims were Somali civilians caught up in the blast, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, confirmed that the targets of the attack were unharmed and safe, and he extended his sorrow at the loss of Somali lives in the incident, adding that the "cowardly terrorist attack" will not deter UAE support to Somalia.
Witnesses described chaotic scenes as civilians fled through nearby alleys while soldiers fired in the air to prevent a crowd from gathering. Civilians carried wounded victims to nearby hospitals.
"We die like insects every day," said Ahmed Mohamed, whose wife was wounded in the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group that has vowed to step up attacks against the government and African Union forces during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The militants, who have ties with al-Qaida, have been pushed out of much of the territory they once controlled across the Horn of Africa nation, including Mogadishu. But they remain a lethal threat, carrying out guerrilla attacks on government and civilian targets.
On Sunday al-Shabab militants tried to attack a training compound used by intelligence officials in Mogadishu. One government soldier and four militants were killed in that attack.
Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy contributed to this report from Dubai.