‘Car bomb’ targets Somalia presidential palace

Friday 18/09/2015
Villa Somalia houses presidential palace and PM’s office

MOGADISHU - A powerful blast, likely a car bomb, was heard late Monday near the heavily guarded Villa Somalia which houses the presidential palace and the prime minister's office in Mogadishu, a police officer said.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone had been hurt in the blast, nor was there any sign of ensuing gunfire or clashes.

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab have frequently used car bombs driven by suicide bombers to break into a complex or a building, with more attackers following on foot.

"We have heard a heavy explosion near the entrance checkpoint of the Villa Somalia but we don't have details yet, it looks like a car bomb explosion," the police officer, Abdiqani Mohamed, said.

A witness named Ali Ahmed said "the explosion occurred between the main entrance of (the Villa Somalia) and a nearby hotel...

"I saw clouds of smoke up in the sky, it was very heavy."

Expelled since mid-2011 from Mogadishu and their bastions in central and southern Somalia, the Shebab still hold large swathes of the countryside which they use as launching pads for their attacks.

The Shebab are fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu, which is protected by 22,000 African Union AMISOM troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.