At least six people have died after a car bomb exploded close to the gate of the international airport in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, police said.
Eyewitnesses told the BBC it was targeting a UN refugee agency convoy. Most of those who died were passers-by and several UN body guards were wounded in the explosion, the witnesses said.
The al-Shabab Islamist group has said it was behind the explosion in one of the most heavily fortified areas in the city – where many embassies are based.
The al-Qaeda-aligned militants were driven out of Mogadishu more than two years ago but continue to launch attacks.
“A car laden with explosives was remotely exploded in front of a tea shop just outside the airport,” police officer Col Abdikadir Ahmed told the Reuters news agency.
The airport complex is also where the African Union force is based
The blast was near a checkpoint at the entrance to the airport complex, the AFP news agency reports.
“At least six people, most of them civilians, died in the car bomb explosion. There are many casualties, serious injuries,” police officer Said Mohamed told AFP.
Eyewitnesses say the blast did only superficial damage to the UN vehicles.
Correspondents say there has been a spate of attacks in Mogadishu in the last week, with gunmen targeting Somali army bases in the city, and several artillery shells, fired from about 6km (nearly four miles) away, have landed near the airport.
Residents also report an increase in sustained night-time attacks, with mortar and gunfire, on the northern outskirts of the city.
The airport is the main base for the African Union force which is based in Somalia to help the fledgling UN-backed government gain control of the country from al-Shabab.
The insurgent group has lost control of most main cities in the last two and half years, but it still holds sway in smaller towns and rural areas in southern Somalia.