A roadside bomb struck a car Wednesday southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu, killing two government officials and two of their bodyguards, regional officials said.
The blast occurred on the main tarmac road linking Mogadishu to southwestern regions, near Afgoye, about 40 kilometers southwest of the capital, villagers told VOA.
"The state minister for security of the Southwest Regional State and a state lawmaker from Hirshabelle Regional State and two of their guards were killed in the attack," said Mohamed Sidow Abdirahman, the Wanlaweyne District Commissioner.
He said the officials were returning from talks attended by the Southwest Regional State president, former parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, senior Somali military officials and advisers for U.S. forces in Somalia.
The talks at Baledogle airfield centered on plans to reopen the road linking Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa, according to Abdirahman.
Somali officials say the Baledogle airfield is where U.S. military experts train Somali forces and help them launch attacks on al-Shabab positions.
Other government officials told VOA that Wednesday's meeting concluded preparations for a major military operation aimed at opening main supply routes to ease access to humanitarian aid in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa nation.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although al-Shabab has carried out similar attacks on the road, targeting government officials, civilians and forces of the African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM.
In April 2013, AMISOM troops backing the Somali National Army recaptured the main road from Mogadishu to Baidoa from al-Shabab, forcing them out of main towns, but the militant Islamic group continued to control most villages and rural areas around the road.
Since 2015, the road has remained completely cut, after heavily armed al-Shabab militants over ran an AMISOM base in the Leego district, killing more than 70 Burundian soldiers.