Insurgents Fire Mortar Rounds at Presidential Palace in Mogadishu

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Published Thursday, February 26, 2015

Insurgents in Somalia's capital fired a barrage of mortar rounds Thursday targeting the highly fortified presidential palace and main government compound, killing a guard, security officials said.

There was no claim of responsibility for the explosions, but the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shebab militant group have staged a string of attacks in their fight to overthrow the country's internationally-backed government.

However, other militia forces operate in Mogadishu, and the parliament is often riven by intense political power struggles.

"At least four rounds of mortar shells struck the parking area and a guard was killed in the attack," Abdirahman Mohammed a security official told AFP.

Witness Mohammed Hassan said several cars parked in the area were damaged.

"Shrapnel destroyed the windows of several cars in the parking area, and I saw one person who was lightly injured," Hassan said.

The news came after US President Barack Obama nominated Tuesday the first US ambassador to Somalia in 24 years.

The move was welcomed by the Somali government. Prime Minister Omar Abdel Rashid Sharmarke considered the nomination “a very positive moment in Somalia's relationship with the US.”

The Somali government that finally took power in August 2012 was the first to be given global recognition since Siad Barre’s regime fell in 1991. The US recognized the new government in January 2013.

Last week two Shebab suicide bombers killed at least 25 people, including the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, when they attacked a popular hotel in the capital Mogadishu where government ministers and officials were holding Friday prayers.

The militants claim they are targeting the government and lawmakers because they allowed the deployment of foreign troops on Somali soil.

Somalia has been in the grip of continuous violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

Shebab, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012 fought against the government and Ethiopian forces, gaining control of most of southern Somalia by late 2008.

The Islamist militants controlled Mogadishu and southern Somalia until they were driven out of the capital in 2011 and have steadily lost territory since 2014, but have launched guerrilla-style attacks on Somali army and African Union (AU) forces.

In 2014, African Union Mission to Somalia known as AMISOM, and Somali soldiers recaptured swathes of territory since launching an offensive last year which the AU envoy said had driven Shebab from "85 percent" of areas it had controlled but security remains a major concern in the impoverished country.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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