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Three dead in attack on African troops in Mogadishu

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

At least three people were killed Friday when a suicide bomber rammed a car laden with explosives into a convoy of African Union troops in the Somali capital, police said.

"Three people are confirmed dead, and three others injured," said police official Ahmed Muktar, who was near the scene of the blast, the latest in a string of explosions in the dangerous capital.

"I saw a car speeding towards the convoy, then it was a huge explosion, buildings all around were rocked by the blast," said Hussein Gure, a witness who was driving nearby when the car exploded.

The AU mission confirmed a car packed with explosives "attempted to hit" one of their armoured troop transport vehicles along one of Mogadishu's main central highways, but that none of its troops were killed in the blast.

There were "minor injuries to the soldiers in the convoy", it said in a statement, adding that such attacks "cannot shake our resolve".

AU vehicles are raised high off the ground specifically to protect the troops inside from such attacks.

However, witnesses said that a mass of roadside shacks near the blast site had been reduced to rubble.

The 17,700-strong AU force, which fights alongside government troops, carries out regular patrols across Somalia.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents have carried out a series of bombings, attacks and killings aimed to overthrow the internationally-backed government.

In previous years, the Muslim month of Ramadan -- which began this week -- has seen a surge in Shebab attacks, with gunmen urged on by extremist preachers.

Despite recent infighting inside the Shebab -- including the recent killing of top leaders in a bloody purge -- analysts warn the extremist group is far from defeated.

The Shebab have lost a string of towns to the AU force, which fights alongside government soldiers.

However, key Shebab strongholds remaining include rural southern and central Somalia, while another faction has dug into remote and rugged mountains in the northern, semi-autonomous Puntland region.

In Mogadishu, Shebab suicide commandos carried out a brazen daylight attack last month on a fortified United Nations compound, while on Tuesday they claimed responsibility for an attack in the main Bakara market, killing one.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130712/three-dead-attack-african-troops-mogadishu-0