At least six people killed in blast in Somali capital - police

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - At least six people were killed in Mogadishu on Saturday, including a senior city council official, when a remotely controlled bomb planted by al Shabaab insurgents exploded on a busy street in the Somali capital, police said.

Somalia's fragile government is struggling to impose any sense of order more than two decades after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre tipped the country into chaos.

The city has been hit by a series of suicide bomb attacks in the past few months, claimed by al Qaeda-linked militants al Shabaab, who have waged a sustained guerrilla campaign even after they were pushed out of the city in mid-2011.

Police said the bomb that killed the city official was hidden in a pile of rubbish placed along the road. They said the other people killed were thought to be his guards.

At least 25 people were wounded, medical officials said.

"The secretary general of the Banadir (Mogadishu) region, Abdikafi Hilowle, was targeted and he died," Major Abdikadir Mohamed, a police officer told Reuters.

"A remotely controlled bomb hidden in paper bags of rubbish destroyed his car."

The incident happened as the car passed through the 'Kilometer 4' junction. The Kilometer 4 neighbourhood is Mogadishu's commercial and administrative centre.

Gunfire from police also rung out through the district, as police fired in the air.

A Reuters witness saw the wrecked government car and five wounded people lying on the street.

Al Shabaab militants - who want to impose a strict version of the sharia law in Somalia - have also claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past.

The group claimed eight people were killed in the attack.

"We have killed a senior city official called Abdikafi Hilowle and 7 of his bodyguards. We killed him to liberate the Somalis," sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al Shabaab's military operation told Reuters.

Western nations involved in Somalia worry it could sink back into chaos and provide a launch pad for Islamist militancy.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Louise Ireland)