Militants attack Somalia presidential palace

Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Militants stormed the presidential palace in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, police said, sparking heavy gunfire as government troops and guards tried to repel them.

Police officer Mohamed Abdi said the attack started when a car bomb exploded outside the presidential complex. Gunmen then entered the palace.

Somalia's president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was not inside the palace when the attack happened, but the prime minister and the speaker of parliament were inside the complex, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police official.

Hussein said that once inside, the militants split up into different groups and tried to take control of different parts of the palace.

"The operation is still under way," he said, referring to efforts to fight the militants.

No more details were immediately available, but the attack is widely believed to have been carried out by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has vowed to step up attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Al-Shabab had previously staged many attempts to enter the heavily-guarded presidential palace, but this is the first time they have succeeded.

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