Two senior Somali military commanders and several soldiers were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb blast hit their vehicle south of Mogadishu.
Officials and witnesses said the generals were traveling with a military convoy near the village of Dhanaane, on the coastal road linking the Somali capital to the port city of Marka, when their pickup truck was targeted.
"A heavy blast caused by bombs apparently planted on the side killed the two generals who immediately died and several government soldiers were also killed," said Abdifitah Hani Abdulle, deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region.
"The blast was very huge, it looked like it was a cache of bombs planted on the road side. I saw smoke and fire overshadowing the whole area," said witness Nuure Osman. "We have been told that no suicide bomber or car bomb involved."
The attack was immediately claimed by the al-Shabab militant group in a statement released by the group's Andalus radio.
Government officials could not confirm the exact number of the soldiers killed, but witnesses said they saw the dead bodies of six uniformed government soldiers.
The generals who were killed were identified as General Omar Aden Hassan Aka Dheere, the commander of Somali National Army's 12-April Division and his deputy General Abdi Ali Jamame. The generals were leading military operations that liberated villages along the coastal road from al-Shabab.
Their deaths come two days after the U.S. military killed four members of al-Shabab in an airstrike in the vicinity of Awdheegle, a town in the same Lower Shabelle region, according to Somali military officials.
Officials said the generals were heading to Mogadishu as they returned from a visit to a Somali military base near Dhanaane.