Car bomb explodes near Somali presidential palace – police

MOGADISHU, July 7 (Reuters) – A suicide car bomb exploded meters away from the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday and smoke was seen rising above the scene of the explosion although it was unclear who was behind the blast, police said.

“A car bomb exploded … it is too early to know (the) casualty,” Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters moments after blast.

A second blast nearby occurred opposite a police building, a police source said. It was not immediately clear whether it caused any injuries.

A Reuters witness saw smoke emanating from many burning vehicles at the scene around the blasts.

Islamist group al Shabaab frequently carries out bombings in the Horn of Africa country where they are fighting to topple the central government. But they have not yet claimed responsibility for Saturday’s blasts.

The group wants to topple the Western-backed central government, expel the African Union-mandated peace keeping force AMISOM and establish a government based on their own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Somalia has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the early 1990.

The first explosion occurred outside a building meters away from the presidential palace and also near a checkpoint.

Hussein said security forces opened fire after the blast occurred. Booming sounds of ambulance sirens were heard while announcements were made via loudspeaker to help clear the road.

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