Mogadishu, Somalia blast 190615
A man walks past the wreckage of an official vehicle that was destroyed in a bomb attack in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, June 15, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Mogadishu, Somalia: A pair of explosions rocked Somalia's capital and left eight people dead, the director of an ambulance service said on Saturday.

Another 16 people were wounded, some of them seriously, Dr Abdiqadir Aden with the Aamin ambulance service told The Associated Press.

He said a car bomb detonated near the Somali parliament headquarters in Mogadishu and caused the most damage.

The Al Qaida-linked Al Shabab extremist group, which often targets the capital with high-profile bombings, quickly claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

Al Shabab said the blasts were meant to strike the first line of security checkpoints for the heavily fortified airport and the presidential palace.

The airport is home to a number of diplomatic offices. The palace is a frequent Al Shabab target.

The United States' military has dramatically increased the number of airstrikes against Al Shabab in the past couple of years, seeking to limit the territory the group controls in central and southern Somalia and make it more difficult for fighters to circulate.

In a report to the United Nations Security Council circulated last month, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres noted an increase in security operations "and a large number of airstrikes targeting Al Shabab training bases and assembly points" that were deemed to have degraded its operating capability and freedom of movement.

"They have also led, however, to increased Al Shabab movement into urban centers, in particular Mogadishu, where their forces are less likely to be targeted from the air," he said.

Guterres added that Somalia is making progress toward building a functioning state after three decades of civil war, extremist attacks and famine but that insecurity, political instability and corruption remain major challenges.

The multinational African Union force in Somalia continues to gradually withdraw personnel in preparation for Somali government forces to assume responsibility for the country's security. Those forces, however, have been described by US military officials and others as not yet ready for the job.