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The attack is one of the most deadly in Mogadishu since Somalia formed a new UN-backed government last year.
It's one of the deadliest attacks in recent months in Somalia's war-ravaged capital, according to Agence France-Presse.
"We've counted at least eight dead so far. It was a car bomb attack," said police official Mohamed Duale."
Hassan Salad, who saw the blast, told AFP, "Many have been killed, some of them were in a minibus that was hit by the blast."
Duale told Reuters a senior officer was the target of the attack.
"The suicide car bomber targeted a senior national security officer whose car was passing near the theatre," Mohamed told Reuters. "Most of the people who died were on board the minibus - civilians. This public vehicle coincidentally came between the government car and the car bomb when it was hit. Littered in the scene are human hands and flesh."
Al-Shebab, the Somali militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack and said the bombing was an attempt to kill the head of the government’s spy agency.
"The Mujahideen were responsible for the attack against the non-believer Khalif Ereg," al-Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP. "One holy person took the sacrificial act for the sake of Allah."
He added: "Attacks against elements like him will continue until they are eliminated from the holy land of Somalia."
Since a military push drove al-Shabab insurgents out of Mogadishu in Aug. 2011, security in the capital city has improved. But according to Reuters, bombings and other guerrilla-style attacks still occur with some regularity.