© Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images
A woman near the site of the car bomb, in Mogadishu.
Blast meant for officials ended up killing members of public near presidential palace and national theatre, say police

A car bomb has exploded near the presidential palace in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 10 people in a blast that appeared to target senior government officials, police say.

The suicide attacker detonated explosives while driving along a boulevard that runs between the palace and the national theatre, a route lined by tea rooms which were engulfed in fire moments after the blast on Monday, the senior police officer Abdiqadir Muhammad said. A public minibus driving along the road burst into flames.

"The suicide car bomber targeted a senior national security officer whose car was passing near the theatre," Muhammad told Reuters.

"Most of the people who died were on board the minibus - civilians. This public vehicle coincidentally came between the government car and the car bomb when it was hit. Littered in the scene are human hands and flesh."

Security in Mogadishu has improved greatly since a military offensive drove Islamist rebels allied to al-Qaida out of the city in August 2011. But bombings and assassinations in Mogadishu, blamed on militants, still occur often.

It was not clear who was behind Monday's bombing. The al-Shabaab insurgent group, which has claimed numerous similar attacks, was not immediately available for comment.

In late September, al-Shabaab withdrew from the southern Indian Ocean port of Kismayu, its last major urban bastion in the Horn of Africa state, signalling its demise as a quasi-conventional military force.

But it pledged to step up a campaign of suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.

Source: Reuters