Somali police on Tuesday appeared to make a deadly error by returning a suspected suicide car bomber they had arrested to his bomb-laden vehicle, where the suspect then detonated a blast that killed four people, officials and witnesses said.
Ali Muse, the head of the city's ambulance service, said the Tuesday blast killed three civilians. Shopkeeper Abdiqadir Abdulahi said he saw one dead policeman as well.
Al-Shabab militants have stepped up a campaign of roadside bombs and suicide car bomb attacks in Mogadishu in recent weeks. The militants were almost entirely pushed out of the Somali capital earlier this year in an offensive by African Union forces.
Tuesday's blast happened near the former Egyptian Embassy. The explosion sent a plume of smoke over the city. The charred remains of the car burned long after the explosion.
A policeman named Abdi Hassan said a would be suicide car bomb was intercepted hours before the blast and the suicide bomber arrested. But Hassan said police returned the attacker to his bomb-laden vehicle under orders that he disarm the explosives. Instead, the bomber was able to trigger the bomb.
Police commanders didn't answer phone calls seeking comment after the blast. One police official said on condition that he was not identified that police supervisors said no one was to talk to journalists about the explosion.