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  • Smoke rises after an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Dec. 22.

    Smoke rises after an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Dec. 22. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 December 2018

Al-Shabab has been fighting for over a decade to topple the government and implement strict Islamic law, often targeting civilians with suicide bombers.

At least 13 people were killed and 17 wounded in a car bomb attack claimed by al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab near the president’s residence in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, police said Saturday. A second explosion followed nearby.

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In comments broadcasted by Radio Andalus, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for both blasts which they attributed to car bombs.

"The death toll has risen to 13 people including civilians and soldiers. Seventeen others were injured. The casualties are from the two blasts," police officer Major Mohamed Hussein told Reuters.

Among those killed were a journalist, two security personnel and a driver working for local station Universal TV, whose car was passing the checkpoint when the first blast went off, according to a Universal TV reporter.

"My colleague Awil Dahir Salad died in the blast together with the driver and two security guards. They were killed by the first blast as they drove. May Allah rest their souls," journalist Abdiasis told Reuters.

Police said earlier that the first car bomb at the checkpoint killed five, mostly soldiers. Ahmed Abdi, another police officer, said the first car bomb exploded at a checkpoint some 400 meters from the presidential palace.

The attack comes days after members of the South West regional parliament, a volatile region of the country, elected former Energy Minister Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed regional president.

Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed, known as "Lafta Garen," is backed by Somalia's federal government.

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A popular former al-Shabab leader Mukhtar Robow was barred from running in the election which was seen as a test of the country's political progress.

Mr. Robow, who was a favorite to win, defected from the jihadist group in 2017. However, authorities arrested him last week claiming he was considered a security threat. He remains in detention in the capital, Mogadishu.

For years Somalia has endured political instability, famine, and maritime piracy. Al-Shabab regularly executes attacks in Mogadishu. Members of the group want to overthrow the government and impose rule based on their own strict interpretation of Sharia law.

The group was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 but maintains a foothold in some regions. Over a decade-long insurgency, they have killed thousands of Somalis and hundreds of civilians across East Africa.

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