Source AP ©

Bomb explodes near car carrying mayor of Mogadishu

A bomb exploded near a convoy of vehicles carrying the mayor of Mogadishu, killing at least two civilians. His bodyguards shot and killed a suspected insurgent who had been in a tree near the site of the blast.

Later Sunday, the U.N.'s food agency appealed for high-level international action to stamp out piracy off the Somali coast, after a failed attempt to hijack one of its contracted ships near the southern Somali port of Merka during which a Somali guard was killed.

Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Dheere was unharmed in the blast, but said several wounded civilians were taken to a hospital.

The convoy was approaching a secondary school in the Somali capital when bodyguards in the first vehicle noticed a suspicious object in the road and stopped, Dheere told reporters.

The device then detonated, but damaged none of the cars. Dheere, who was in the third car, said none of the cars' occupants was hurt.

"The remnants of the Islamic courts are behind this explosion," Dheere said, referring to the Council of Islamic Courts, which seized control over much of southern Somalia last year before being driven out by government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers.

"My guards killed a man who was apparently controlling the bomb on a tree," the mayor said. "He jumped and tried to snatch a gun from a soldier, and he was shot."

On Thursday, a bomb exploded as Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi's convoy was on its way to the capital's airport, but no one was injured and no vehicles were damaged.

At the end of April, the government declared victory in battles against clan rivals and Islamic insurgents, who have vowed to wage an Iraq-style guerrilla war unless the country becomes an Islamic state. The battles in Mogadishu between March 12 and April 26 alone killed at least 1,670 people. Since February, 400,000 Mogadishu residents have fled violence in the capital.

Meanwhile, pirates attempted to hijack a U.N.-contracted ship off the Somali coast on Saturday, World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a statement.

The incident highlighted "the growing problem of piracy off Somalia," and if no action is taken, "not only will our supply lines be cut, but also those of other aid agencies," Sheeran said.

Cargo ships offer the fastest way to deliver food aid to Somalia.

Saturday's attack was the eighth this year off the Somali coast, which is near shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, where valuable cargo and carriers must pass.

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