By Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A car loaded with explosives rammed into the gates of an office housing Turkish embassy staff in the Somali capital, killing three people, witnesses and police said on Saturday, the latest in a series of blasts over the past two months.
"A suicide car bomb targeted a building housing Turkish embassy workers near k4 (Kilometer Four)," Ahmed Mohamud, police officer told Reuters from the scene of the blast.
Mohamud later said the number of dead was three - Somali civilians and a suspected suicide bomber, while nine others had been wounded.
"The car was taking advantage of a Turkish car that was going into the building, thus the car bomb exploded and destroyed the gate," he said.
Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, as they have for previous bombings, including one in mid-July that killed eight civilians.
"Mujahideen forces in Mogadishu have just carried out an operation targeting a group of Turkish diplomats in Hodan district," al Shabaab said on its Twitter feed.
A Reuters witness said armed Turkish security staff inside the embassy building put out a request for those at the scene to call ambulances to carry away the wounded.
Somalia is trying to rebuild itself after two decades of civil war and lawlessness, backed by international aid as well as African Union peacekeepers and Ethiopian troops, aimed at preventing it from becoming a haven for al Qaeda-style militants in East Africa.
Al Shabaab was forced out of bases in Mogadishu by Somali and African forces about two years ago, raising hopes of a return to relative security in a city hit by years of turmoil.
But militants have kept up guerrilla-style attacks and continue to control large rural areas, challenging the authority of a government less than one year old.
In the most recent brazen attack, its members attacked the main U.N. compound in the capital in June, killing 22 people.
The group said earlier this month it was aiming to increase the number of attacks carried out during the Ramadan fasting period.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Editing by George Obulutsa and David Evans)