Somalia car bomb explodes near convoy of top army officials

The Islamist group al Shabaab was behind the attack, said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations.

"There was a huge blast presumably caused by a vehicle loaded with explosives", said Ali Abdirahman, a security official, adding that a civilian bus was passing at the time.

A auto bomb attack on a bustling street between the ministry of defence headquarters and a military academy has left at least 15 dead.

"No one can identify the number of casualties (as) bodies of (the) dead (were blown up) into pieces and blood covered the area of the suicide auto bomb attack, vehicles were also destroyed and burned", a journalist at the scene told Xinhua by phone.

Residents gather to view the damage at the scene of a auto bomb attack near Somali Youth League Hotel in Mogadishu February 27, 2016.

Somalia's President replaced his security chiefs on Thursday and called on al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents to surrender within 60 days in return for education and jobs.

The group aims to expel the peacekeepers and topple Somalia's Western-backed government. Last week a vehicle bomb blast on Wednesday at a Mogadishu restaurant killed at least seven people.

According to a presidential decree, Mohammed appointed a number of retired general to the most important military and security posts.

Mohamed did not mention the new USA directive, but emphasized that Somali troops should take the lead and added in a statement: "We want to pardon the Somali youth who were misled by al Shabaab".

Somalia's security forces are under pressure to improve as they will assume responsibility for defending the country once the 22,000-strong AU force leaves by the end of 2020.

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