The palace in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, home to the country's internationally-backed government, has been hit by a huge car bomb followed by a raid by gunmen, police and witnesses said.
Friday, February 21, 2014
"There is a large attack on the presidential palace. Initial reports are that a suicide car bomber hit the gate and exploded, then men with guns followed," police officer Mohamed Ali told the Agence-France Press news agency.
United Nations special representative to Somalia, Nick Kay, later tweeted that the country's president had telephoned him to say that he was unharmed.
"Attack on Villa Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism," Kay tweeted .
Later, the national security minister, Abdikarim Hussein Guled, said: "Desperate violent terrorists have staged a failed attack. Things are back to normal and the security forces are in full control of the situation."
Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab rebels said they carried out the suicide attack.
"Our commandos have attacked the so-called presidential palace in order to kill or arrest those who who are inside," al-Shabab military spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Musab told AFP.
The Associated Press news agency said the gunmen were wearing suicide vests and carrying grenades.
"Security forces are dealing with terrorists who blew up a car... and there is exchange of fire. We have no details of the casualties but of course there are casualties," Ahmed Moalim Adan, a security official near the scene of the attack earlier told AFP.
Witness Hussein Isa said the attackers had been fighting inside the presidential compound.
"A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into the perimeter wall of the presidential palace and another one with heavily armed men penetrated the area where the first one hit. There is heavy exchange of gunfire continuing inside the building but we cannot tell what is happening," the witness said.
The sound of intense gunfire and sporadic explosions could be heard coming from the presidential complex, AFP reporters said.
The city has been hit by a series of suicide bomb attacks in the past few weeks, claimed by the al-Shabab armed group, who were pushed out of the city about two years go but have waged a sustained guerrilla campaign