Al Shabaab admit to firing mortars at Somalia presidential palace

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Mogadishu: Somalia's al Shabaab militants said they carried out a mortar attack on the presidential palace in the capital Mogadishu on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The al Qaeda-affiliated group was pushed out of Mogadishu by African peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has waged a series of gun and grenade attacks to try to overthrow the government and impose its strict version of sharia law.

"We attacked the palace with mortar shells today. Several landed inside the palace," Al Shabaab's military operation spokesman told Reuters.

Police said several mortars landed near the palace, but it was not immediately clear whether anyone had been hit. "We are investigating those who are behind the attack and where they were fired from," said Captain Ali Hussein, a police officer.

Somalia is trying to rebuild after two decades of civil war and lawlessness, but persistent attacks in the capital have complicated that effort. The fragile government is being backed by international aid aimed at preventing it from becoming a haven for al Qaeda-style militants in East Africa.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.