MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A car bomb exploded close to a convoy of United Nations vehicles near Mogadishu's international airport on Thursday, killing six Somalis on the street, officials said. Al-Qaida-linked militants claimed responsibility.
A U.N. vehicle was damaged but said no U.N. staff were injured, said Nicholas Kay, U.N. representative to Somalia. He said four security escorts were lightly wounded.
The U.N. expressed "deep sorrow" for the Somali deaths and injuries.
Al-Shabab, Somalia's most lethal militant group in claiming responsibility, boasted that the attack had killed U.N. personnel. Al-Shabab frequently makes false claims.
The remote controlled blast killed six Somalis and wounded eight, said police Col. Ahmed Hassan Maalin.
The blast occurred at the city's busy airport junction. The heavily fortified Mogadishu airport is the base for the U.N., other international diplomats and African Union forces that help support Somalia's government.
The bomb blast comes after a barrage of mortars hit Mogadishu overnight. Mortars also hit the city last week, raising fears of a return to more constant warfare.
Al-Shabab which once controlled most of Mogadishu, was pushed out of the city in 2011. But it continues to carry out deadly gunfire and bomb attacks in the city.
The blast was a "heinous terror attack," said Andrea Mazzella, Italy's ambassador to Somalia.
"The civilian population continues to pay an unbearable price in terms of loss of lives and suffering," Mazzella said. "I appeal to the Federal Government and to the elders and leaders of the all country to express together, unequivocally, their renewed determination to achieve lasting peace for the sake of their people."