Islamic insurgents attacked the Somali president’s convoy as he prepared to fly out to Ethiopia for crisis talks aimed at healing a rift with the prime minister, reports said on Friday.
The BBC reported that insurgents detonated two landmines near President Abdullahi Yusuf’s convoy as he travelled to the airport in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
Ethiopian troops opened fire after the attack and killed five civilians, the BBC said.
Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, also known as Nur Adde, were flying to Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for talks aimed at solving a bitter row some fear could jeopardise a recent peace deal signed with opposition figures.
Yusuf and Nur Adde have been at loggerheads for weeks about the premier’s decision to fire Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Dheere.
Supporters of Yusuf in parliament have threatened to call a no-confidence motion in the prime minister.
Mogadishu-based radio station Garowe said on its website that the African Union was expected to mediate between the warring leaders.
Nur Adde signed a ceasefire with moderate opposition leaders in June, but the agreement crucially did not encompass al-Shabaab, the insurgent group causing most of the havoc in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab has been waging a guerrilla war since Ethiopian troops helped the government oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in late 2006. Al-Shabaab is the armed wing of the UIC.
The interim government has been unable to achieve stability in the Horn of Africa country, which has been plagued by chaos and civil war since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.
Aid organisations estimate that around 6,000 civilians have died and hundreds of thousands have fled Mogadishu in 2007 of fighting.
The peace deal has failed to curb the violence. Talks are set to take place this weekend in neighbouring Djibouti with a view to improving the security situation.