MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed 10 people in a minibus in southern Somalia on Thursday, a military officer and residents said, blaming Islamist militants who denied planting the device.
The blast in Golweyn village occurred hours after Somalia's president replaced his security chiefs and called on al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab militants to surrender within 60 days in return for education and jobs.
"We have confirmed from residents there that at least 10 civilians died and 10 others were wounded," Colonel Hassan Mohamed, a military officer in a nearby village, told Reuters.
"...al Shabaab controls Golweyn village and they planted bombs in all those roads."
Al Shabaab governor for the Lower Shabelle region, Mohamed Abu Usama, said its fighters were not at the village, and put the number of dead at eight.
"We do not control Golweyn village and its surroundings. It is a battlefield between our mujahideen (jihadist fighters) and the so-called government forces," he told Reuters by phone.
Residents said earlier in the day that government and African Union peacekeeping troops (AMISOM) had conducted an operation in the area near where the blast occurred.
Osman Ali, a shopkeeper in Bulamarer district where the minibus began its journey, said it had set off mid-afternoon.
"This evening we are told it got burnt in Golweyn... We called the phones of the passengers but none gets through. My cousin was also on board," he told Reuters by phone.
The group has been driven out of its strongholds in Somalia by AMISOM and Somali army offensives, although it still controls some towns and rural areas and often launches guerrilla-style assaults and bomb attacks in the capital Mogadishu.
Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Louise Ireland