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Attack on Somali presidential palace kills eight people

The strike came hours after President Abdullahi Yusuf flew into the anarchic capital Mogadishu.

world Updated: Mar 14, 2007 14:13 IST

At least eight people were killed during a mortar bomb attack on Somalia's presidential palace, hospital officials said on Wednesday.

The strike on Tuesday came hours after President Abdullahi Yusuf flew into the anarchic capital, Mogadishu, where insurgents have attacked government forces and their allies on an almost daily basis.

"Fourteen people were brought in and two died," a Madina Hospital worker, who did not want to be named, told the agency.

Other hospital officials and residents said six more people were also killed and a total of 33 injured by the attack on the hilltop Villa Somalia palace, and the ensuing retaliatory gunfire from government and Ethiopian troops.

Most blame the insurgency on remnants of a hardline Islamist movement defeated by the government with Ethiopian military backing in a two-week war that spanned the New Year. It ended a six-month Islamist reign over most of southern Somalia.

Though aimed at the government and its allies including African Union (AU) peacekeepers who arrived earlier this month, civilians are invariably caught up in the violence, and Tuesday's was no exception.

"Four of my children were injured when a mortar hit our house," said Safia Abdirahman, a resident of Yaqshid.

"We are poor civilians. I have been living safely in that house for the last 16 years, the whole duration of the civil war."

Yusuf was elected in 2004 but could not set foot in Mogadishu until this year because he feared for his safety as an outsider. He came back to the coastal city again amid tight security on Tuesday.

The still-struggling interim government had on Monday voted to move to Mogadishu from its current seat in Baidoa, a relatively safer south-central trading outpost.

Yusuf's administration is anxious to impose its authority on the country after being relegated until the December war to temporary bases in outlying towns -- and for a time after its 2004 creation, in neighboring Kenya.

The AU has dispatched more than 1,000 peacekeepers from Uganda to Mogadishu and hopes to increase that to 8,000 troops, but so far only half the troops have been pledged and their deployment dates are unclear and as yet not fully funded.

The Horn of Africa country degenerated into anarchy soon after the ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, and 13 earlier attempts at creating an effective central government have all failed.