x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Islamist rebels launch attack on Somalia’s presidential palace

Al Shebab gunmen set off car bomb and penetrate high-security complex before blowing themselves up.

MOGADISHU // Somalia’s Islamist Al Shabab rebels carried out a major bomb and armed assault against the country’s presidential palace late yesterday, penetrating the heavily fortified complex before blowing themselves up.

Officials said Somalia’s internationally backed president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and prime minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed were not inside the complex at the time and were both safe. Security sources said they were with guards from the African Union.

“There were at least nine attackers, all have been killed, and the situation is under control, the attack is over,” security official Abdi Ahmed said. “There were eight blasts towards the end of the fighting, believed to have been suicide vests. They detonated themselves.”

An Al Shabab spokesman confirmed that the Al Qaeda-linked group was behind the attack, and claimed their commandos had managed to seize the president’s office inside the presidential compound known as the Villa Somalia.

“Our commandos are inside the so-called presidential office,” claimed Al Shabab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab. “We are in control of the headquarters of the apostate regime. The enemy suffered high casualties during the operation, which is ongoing. The assault is a victory for us since the foreign-installed government said that security was beefed up.”

Police said the attackers launched a two-pronged attack, setting off a large bomb at the rear of the palace and then storming in via another entrance. The attack came shortly after the start of iftar.

Authorities gave no details of casualties on their side. It was also impossible to confirm reports that the embassy of Djibouti, which has troops in Somalia and whose mission is close to the presidential palace, had also come under direct attack.

* Agence France-Press