Somalia blast kills at least 20 near presidential palace

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The death toll from a double car-bomb attack near the presidential palace in Somalia rose to 20 on Sunday, police said.

Police on Saturday had said seven people were killed following the two blasts in Mogadishu, which were claimed by the extremist Shabaab group.

"The number of victims who were killed in the blasts increased to 20 and more than 40 others have been wounded," said a Somali police official, Ibrahim Mohamed.

He said the toll had risen after some of those wounded on Saturday died in hospital.

Both civilians and members from the security forces were among the casualties, the official said.

The bomber targeted the checkpoint near the rear entrance of the heavily fortified palace, Hussein said. A lawmaker and a deputy mayor of Mogadishu were among those wounded, he said.

Soldiers also were among the dead, Col. Ahmed Mohamud said.

The blast and a second, smaller one nearby appeared to target those heading to work on what was a business day in the Horn of Africa nation.

A plume of smoke rose over the capital as ambulances rushed to the scene.

“At first I saw a vehicle driving to and fro, then we tried to stop people walking here and there, and then in the blink of an eye the vehicle exploded, causing havoc,” traffic police officer Mohamed Harun told The Associated Press.

Al-Shabaab, the most active Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa, was pushed out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to control large parts of rural southern and central Somalia.

The US military, which partners with Somali forces and a 20,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission, has greatly increased airstrikes against al-Shabaab under the Trump administration. At least 47 US strikes have been carried out this year.