Shabaab kill 5 at Somali presidency
Mogadishu - A suicide bomber killed at least five people in an attack Wednesday at the compound of Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed that was claimed by al-Qaeda affiliated Shabaab rebels.
The bomber detonated an explosives vest at the heavily guarded compound, also leaving several people wounded, ahead of Sharif's return from a visit to neighbouring Ethiopia, security officials said.
Shabaab insurgents said one of their volunteers had carried out the attack and claimed that 16 people had been killed.
"The mujahideen carried out a spectacular martyrdom operation inside the presidential palace of the apostate Somali regime," the group said in a Twitter post.
"The highly exceptional operation took place inside the compound while apostate officials were holding a meeting there."
The site of the attack was splattered with blood, human remains and destroyed plastic chairs. Residents looked on in shock as security officials inspected the scene, an AFP reporter said.
Five people, besides the bomber, were killed in the attack at the gate of the parliament speaker's residence, which is located inside the Villa Somalia compound that houses the presidency.
Muktar Abdi Yusuf, a security official at the presidential residence, said: "The situation is under control and the wounded have been taken to hospital."
The speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, had gone to welcome the president at the airport, another security official said.
The hard line Islamist group has resorted to guerilla tactics since abandoning fixed bases in the war-torn capital Mogadishu in August, and has claimed responsibility for previous deadly attacks.
In October, it carried out its deadliest suicide attack in the capital when a bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a government compound, killing at least 82 people.
A Shabaab suicide bomber also killed 15 people in February at a cafe near the presidential palace.
The Horn of Africa country has had no effective government since 1991, allowing the Shabaab and other militia groups to fill the vacuum.
The insurgents have been fighting to overthrow a weak Western-backed Somalia government propped up in Mogadishu by a 10 000-strong African Union force comprising troops from Djibouti, Burundi and Uganda.
The hard line Islamists, who control large swathes of territory in southern Somalia, have in recent months come under pressure from the armed forces of neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia in the far south and in the west.
Ethiopian forces recently ousted them from a key southern Somalia stronghold, and the Shabaab have also been battered by Kenyan air strikes.
However, analysts warn the Shabaab are far from defeated and remain a major threat, especially now they have switched to guerrilla tactics.
At a London conference last month, international powers pledged to boost aid for Somalia to tackle Islamist militancy, piracy and political instability, warning that failure to help could hurt the rest of the world.
The mandate of the government expires in August and the fragile administration's backers have ruled out any further extension, pressing for the formation of a new administration that can impose nationwide authority.