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Bomb Explodes Outside Somali Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, Somalia
The Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, Somalia

A suicide car bomb has exploded near Somalia's presidential palace in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least seven people.

Hospital sources say at least another 21 people were injured in the blast which occurred just after 6 p.m. local time on Monday. Doctors at Mogadishu's largest hospital, Medina, told VOA's Somali service that more than half the injured are in serious condition.

The suicide bomber rammed his car packed with explosives near a checkpoint of the presidential palace, which houses the offices of Somalia's president and prime minister.

Security officials say a convoy carrying the United Nation's special envoy to Somalia, Nick Kay, was preparing to leave the palace when the explosion occurred, although it is not clear if he was the target of the blast. Kay was not harmed in the attack, but two of his private security guards were killed.

In a statement following the attack, Kay condemned "this barbaric act of terrorism and attempt to undermine the political progress."

Somali and U.N. officials were meeting at the palace to discuss the transitional process for Somalia in 2016.

The Associated Press reports the Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Al-Shabab has been trying since 2006 to overthrow the Somali government and establish a strict Islamic state.

The group controlled most of southern Somalia as recently as 2010, but was pushed into the countryside by African Union and Somali government forces. The militants carry out frequent attacks, often targeting government officials and African Union troops.