The presidential palace in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, home to the country’s internationally backed government, has been hit by a massive car bomb, followed by a raid by gunmen, police and witnesses said. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was unharmed.
Police said at least 14 people died in the attack, including five Somali officials or soldiers and nine attackers, according to the Agence-France Presse news agency. The palace is now back under full control of the government.
Somali armed group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on the heavily fortified compound, known as Villa Somalia.
United Nations Special Representative to Somalia Nicholas Kay said in a Twitter post that Mohamud called him by telephone to say that he was unharmed.
“Attack on Villa Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism,” Kay said.
“There is a large attack on the presidential palace. Initial reports are that a suicide car bomber hit the gate and exploded, then men with guns followed,” police officer Mohamed Ali told AFP.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab rebels claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
“Our commandos have attacked the so-called presidential palace in order to kill or arrest those who are inside,” Al-Shabab military spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Musab told AFP.
“We are still holding some of the buildings, and the fighting is continuing. The commandos wanted to seize all of it.”
The Associated Press said the gunmen were wearing suicide vests and carrying grenades.
"Security forces are dealing with terrorists who blew up a car ... and there is exchange of fire. We have no details of the casualties, but of course there are casualties," Ahmed Moalim Adan, a security official near the scene of the attack earlier told AFP.
Hussein Isa, a witness to the attack, said armed men were fighting inside the compound.
“A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into the perimeter wall of the presidential palace, and another one with heavily armed men penetrated the area where the first one hit. There is heavy exchange of gunfire continuing inside the building, but we cannot tell what is happening,” Isa said.
The sound of intense gunfire and sporadic explosions could be heard coming from the complex, AFP reporters said.
The city has been hit by a series of suicide bomb attacks in the past few weeks claimed by Al-Shabab, which was pushed out of the city about two years ago but have waged a sustained guerrilla campaign.
Al Jazeera and wire services