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Deadly mortar attack near Somali palace during handover ceremony for new leader

Two civilians have been killed in an al-Shabab mortar attack outside Somalia's presidential palace in Mogadishu during a handover ceremony for the country's new leader, police said.

At least three mortars slammed into a residential area near the palace, killing two civilians, during the ceremony for President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, said Captain Mohamed Hussein.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, cited al-Shabab posts on Twitter that claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Farmajo, who also holds US citizenship, was elected on February 8.

Securing a country that remains under threat of deadly attacks by al-Shabab, which is linked to al Qaida, is a top challenge.

While the extremist group has been pushed out of most of its key strongholds, it continues to carry out deadly attacks in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

Recent targets have included hotels and checkpoints manned by Somalia's security forces or the multinational African Union peacekeeping mission that has been trying to stabilise the Horn of Africa country.

Fears of al-Shabab attacks were a factor in delaying this month's presidential election multiple times since last year.

On the eve of the election, two mortar rounds fired by suspected extremists hit near the voting venue, a heavily guarded former air force base.

The election of Mr Farmajo and the peaceful transfer of power have been seen as a key step towards having Somalia's first fully functioning central government in a quarter of a century.

The country began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Somalia is now an increasingly important partner for the US military on counter-terrorism efforts, including drone strikes against al-Shabab leaders.


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