Somali troops backed by African Union forces repelled an attack on the presidential palace in Mogadishu on Tuesday after al Shabaab Islamist militants forced their way into the compound, the interior ministry said.
The militants used a car bomb to break through a perimeter wall as gunmen stormed the building before being repulsed by security forces, the interior ministry said.
Up to five members of the Islamist group were killed, Interior Minister Abdullahi Godah Barre told Reuters. Three militants were confirmed dead, and up to two more were believed to have died in the car blast.
Security sources said President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was not inside the presidential palace at the time of the attack and was safe under the protection of African Union forces.
Somalia's presidency said in a Twitter post that "the shameful attack'' had been foiled by the armed forces with the aid of African Union peacekeepers.
"Our commandos are inside the so-called presidential office," Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP earlier in the day. "We are in control of the headquarters of the apostate regime."
The al Qaeda-linked insurgents launched a previous attack on the presidential palace in February in which at least two government officials were killed.
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on the parliament in Mogadishu in May that left at least seven people dead, including several of the attackers.
The group claimed responsibility for killing two Somali lawmakers within 24 hours in April.
The militants stole international headlines with a high-profile attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall in neighbouring Kenya in September that left 67 people dead.
Al Shabaab, who want to impose a strict version of sharia Islamic law across Somalia, were driven out of Mogadishu in late 2011. They are now struggling to hold on to territory in the face of attacks by Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union forces.
The group has launched several attacks inside Kenya that it claimed were in retaliation for the participation of Kenyan troops in the battle to rout the militants from the region.
Al Shabaab claimed several deadly attacks that killed dozens in cities on the Kenyan coast earlier this year.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
Date created : 2014-07-08