At least nine killed in al-Shabaab auto bomb attack in Somalia

A Somali policeman stands guard at the scene of an explosion at the Benadir junction in Mogadishu Somalia

A Somali policeman stands guard at the scene of an explosion at the Benadir junction in Mogadishu Somalia

A suicide auto 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 Reuters witness heard the second blast and saw the huge clouds of smoke rising above the scene.

Police have since told broadcaster al-Jazeera that all the militants had been killed in a two-hour gun battle.

Speaking to reporters, the Somali Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Geelle said the militants carried out today's attacks to kill and maim civilians. The compound also holds Somalia's security ministry. It was blamed for the October truck bombing that killed more than 500 people in the deadliest attack in the country's history.

Destroyed vehicles are seen at the scene of a suicide auto bombing near Somalia's presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia on July 7, 2018.

More than 10 people were wounded and the death toll could rise, Col. Ahmed Mohamed said.

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Smoke drifted from burning vehicles following a suicide auto bombing close to the presidential palace and a second blast near the security building.

"In the first phase, we carried 13 injured people from near the two blast scenes", Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the Amin Ambulance emergency service, told newsmen.

Al Shabaab wants to topple Somalia's Western-backed central government, expel the African Union-mandated peace keeping force AMISOM and establish a government based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Meanwhile, in a separate attack, a former commissioner of the Qoryooley district in the Lower Shabelle region was killed Saturday in a roadside bomb attack. Al shabaab also claimed responsibility for that attack. But they have not yet claimed responsibility for Saturday's blasts.

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