Al-Shabaab launches deadly attack close to Somali presidential palace

Al-Shabaab launches deadly attack close to Somali presidential palace
A car bomb exploded nearby Somalia's presidential palace on Thursday morning, killing at least two people. Police said the death toll was likely to rise.
2 min read
07 March, 2019
A car bomb attack killed at least five in the Somali capital last week [Twitter]

A deadly explosion hit central Mogadishu on Thursday morning, killing at least two people and wounding five, local media reported.

The car bomb was detonated at a checkpoint close to the presidential palace in the Somali capital, early reports claimed.

The extremist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it targeted a checkpoint guarding a main entrance to Villa Somalia,  the residence of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

Al-Shabaab's claim has been corroborated by early media reports which say a car laden with explosives was detonated at a checkpoint close to the president palace and Somalia's national theatre.

The current number of casualties could be as many as five people with police predicting that the death toll will likely rise in the coming hours.

Somali social media users have questioned how the extremist group has been able to carry out such attacks on a regular basis, despite stringent security measures by the government. 

"With nearly all of the main roads in city's centre closed; checkpoints on city entry routes manned by troops, questions ought to be asked as to why [Al-Shabab] is able to carry out attacks at will and with such audacity every other week," tweeted Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa Project Director for International Crisis Group.

"Something has gone awfully awry."

Last week, a car bomb exploded in Mogadishu, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more. Al-Shabaab claimed the attack, saying they had intended to target government officials staying in a nearby hotel.

The Al-Qaeda linked group, which opposes Somalia's federal government and wants to impose sharia law, is considered by many to be the deadliest extremist group in Africa.

It has carried out attacks in East Africa beyond its base in Somalia, including in neighbouring Kenya, despite having been ousted from its bases in the capital in 2011.

The US has ramped up airstrikes against the group in Somalia last year. A strike last week  killed around 20 Al-Shabaab militants, but a US general said earlier this month that airstrikes alone would not be enough to defeat the group.