File picture: AFP

Mogadishu - A Somali lawmaker and his bodyguard were killed in Mogadishu on Thursday when al-Shabaab gunmen blocked their car and sprayed it with bullets, a fellow legislator said, the fifth such attack in as many days.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militants were pushed out of the capital by African peacekeeping forces in 2011, but have since waged a bombing campaign to try to overthrow the government and impose their strict version of sharia law.

Al-Shabaab threatened to step up attacks during the Ramadaan fasting month which began on Sunday.

“Our colleague legislator Mohamed Mohamud Hayd and his bodyguard died - another lawmaker and a secretary for the parliament were also injured in the exchange of fire,” lawmaker Dahir Amin Jesow told Reuters.

“The MP who died was a former admiral and a hardworking lawmaker who has been in parliament for over a decade. I understand the gunmen escaped - it is very unfortunate.”

Sheikh Abdiasis abu Musab, al-Shabaab's spokesman for military affairs, pledged to continue killing Somali legislators “one by one”.

“The so-called lawmakers are the ones who brought the enemy Christians into our country. We shall continue killing the legislators in bundles,” Musab told Reuters, a reference to the support Mogadishu receives from Western governments and African Union members who have sent in troops to battle the rebels.

Al-Shabaab killed two MPs in Mogadishu in April, gunning down one and blowing up the other over two successive days.

US military advisers have secretly operated in Somalia since around 2007 and Washington plans to deepen its security assistance to help the country fend off al-Shabaab, US officials told reporters. - Reuters