Suicide car bomber targets Somalia's presidential palace
An Islamic extremist suicide bomber has detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the gate of Somalia's presidential palace, killing at least four people, a police official said.
The bomber detonated his vehicle near soldiers guarding the Mogadishu compound that is the official residence of the president, prime minister and the speaker of parliament, Captain Mohamed Hussein said.
The bomber appeared to target foreign officials who were leaving the presidential palace, killing two of them, he said. He did not identify the nationality of the officials. At least two soldiers also died in the blast, he added.
A huge pall of smoke could be seen billowing over the scene of the blast and soldiers fired into the air to disperse the crowd who gathered around, according to witness Abdirahman Mohamed, who lives near the presidential palace.
Ambulances rushed to the scene to transport the blast victims to hospitals.
The Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has ties with al Qaida, claimed the attack in a message broadcast over its online radio Andalus.
The message said the attack targeted "senior apostate leaders and Christian foreign invaders".
Despite being forced out of many of their strongholds, al-Shabab fighters are still able to launch lethal attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia, often targeting African Union troops and government officials.
The attack comes as Somalia's regional and national leaders hold consultative meetings focusing on presidential elections scheduled for next year.