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Deadly Somalia attacks as bomb hits capital and African Union soldiers ambushed

Fighters with the al-Shabab extremist group have ambushed an African Union convoy in southern Somalia and killed at least eight soldiers, a military officer said.

The attack came hours after a car bomb in the capital killed at least five people, most of them civilians, shattering a month of relative calm in Mogadishu.

The al Qaida-linked al-Shabab fighters attacked the convoy near Bulo-Marer in the Lower Shabelle region, said Colonel Muhyadin Yasin.

Uganda's defence ministry confirmed the attack on the multinational force, saying an unknown number of troops were killed.

"A lot of damage was inflicted on the enemy," a statement said.

The extremist group claimed that the attack killed 39 soldiers.

Al-Shabab has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa. Despite being forced out of many cities and towns across Somalia, it continues to launch lethal attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

The extremist group maintains a presence largely in rural areas and continues to pose major challenges to the allied Somali and African Union forces as they travel between remote towns, even as the AU force plans to pull out of Somalia in the coming years and leave security to national troops.

Hundreds of African Union soldiers have been killed in recent years as al-Shabab targeted their military bases as well.

The extremist group also carries out deadly attacks in neighbouring countries, notably Kenya, that have sent troops to support Somalia's fragile central government.

That threat has been a factor in rising security concerns around Kenya's presidential election next month.

Earlier on Sunday, a car bomb blast near a police station in Mogadishu killed at least five people and wounded at least 13 others, police said.

Al-Shabab often carries out deadly bombings against high-profile targets such as hotels and checkpoints in the capital.

The blast near Waberi police station along the busy Maka Almukarramah road may have been a suicide bomber, said Captain Mohamed Hussein. Most of the victims were civilians.

The blast occurred amid a traffic jam while soldiers were searching cars at a nearby intersection.

Somalia's Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, said no such blast had occurred in the capital for a month.

AP

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