Militants Attack Presidential Palace in Somalia

 

villa SomaliaMogadishu, February 21, 2014 — multiple explosions and a firefight erupted near the presidential palace here in the Somali capital on Friday, in a deadly militant attack on the heart of the government.

“Terrorists tried to attack the presidential palace and the security forces foiled the attack,” Abdikarim Hussein Guled, the minister of the interior and national security, told state media. He called on the public to remain calm and promised to provide more information later.

The United Nations’ top envoy to the country said in a message on Twitter that the Somalian president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, had survived the attack on the palace, known as Villa Somalia. “President just called me to say he’s unharmed,” said Nicholas Kay, the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia. “Attack on Villa #Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism.”

Witnesses said a loud explosion was heard, followed by an exchange of gunfire and then a series of several more explosions around Villa Somalia. Ambulances were on the scene collecting the wounded.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein of the police told The Associated Press that the attack had begun with a car bomb, followed by militants attempting to shoot their way into the compound, where the president and the speaker of Parliament reside and have their offices.

“Somali National Security Forces foiled cowardly attack outside Villa Somalia,”said the African Union mission in Somalia, known as Amisom, in a Twitter message after the attack. “Senseless attack was directed on innocent civilians as Friday prayers were underway in Mosques.”

Three suicide bombers tried to assassinate Mr. Mohamud in September 2012, as he was holding a news conference at a hotel with the visiting Kenyan foreign minister. Mr. Mohamud was not harmed in that incident either, but an African Union soldier was killed.

The Somali militant group Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters reported.