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Somali President Unharmed in Palace Attack; 17 Killed

Al-Qaida-linked militants attacked Somalia's presidential palace Friday. The president was unharmed but at least 17 other people were killed.

Al-Shabab quickly claimed responsibility for the attack on the palace, known as Villa Somalia.

Witnesses say the attack began with a car bomb explosion, then gunmen stormed the palace compound. African Union and Somali government soldiers fought off the assailants.

A Somali security official tells VOA that the dead include seven soldiers, at least eight attackers and two others. One of those killed, Mohamud Indha-Asse, was chief of staff in the prime minister's office.

Nick Kay is the U.N. secretary-general's special representative to Somalia. He says he heard from President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud soon after the attack.

"The first I heard of it this morning actually as a phone call from the president just after the attack had happened. He wanted to reassure me that he was unharmed, unhurt and that the attack had been unsuccessful."

In a statement, President Mohamud sent condolences to the families of those killed, and vowed that the Somali government and African Union forces would "eliminate" the group.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and called on Somalis to remain resolute in the fight against extremism.

The U.S. State Department said the attack shows once again that al-Shabab stands only for death and destruction.

Al-Shabab lost control of Mogadishu in 2011 but has mounted periodic attacks in the city.

The U.N.-backed Mohamud government is trying to restore stability to Somalia, which has endured more than two decades of lawlessness and war.

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