Mortar explosions heard near Somalia’s presidential palace as regional heads of state meet in Mogadishu

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Multiple explosions were heard in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as regional leaders including Kenyan president William Ruto gathered in the city to discuss their joint offensive against the al-Shabab militant group.

Four shells hit areas near the the heavily guarded presidential palace where the meeting was taking place, officials said. There are no reports of casualties and the leaders at the meeting are all safe. The Somalia government is yet to comment on the explosions.

“Multiple explosions occurred near the presidential palace (Villa Somalia) in Mogadishu around 09:05 Feb. 1. Initial reports indicate the blasts were caused by mortar shells. No casualties were immediately reported,” said Crisis 24, an arm of international security company Garda Group.

“Security forces will likely maintain a heightened security presence within the security perimeter around the palace and the nearby Ministry of Information until the associated investigation concludes. Increased security measures will almost certainly prompt transport and business disruptions in the affected area over the coming hours and days,” said the company.

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Somalia is hosting a summit of leaders from several neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa to discuss the fight against al-Shabab, as a wide-ranging offensive against the armed group gathers pace.

The meeting in the drew leaders from three “brotherly neighbouring countries”, the Somali presidency said, posting pictures of the arrival of Kenya’s William Ruto, Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Speaking at the meeting Ruto said the war against terrorism in the Horn of Africa calls for a collective effort. He noted that the region must adopt a common strategy for combating terrorism and associated criminality.

He said through common endeavour, leaders have the power to rebuild stable societies and secure the people’s well-being.

“We must dismantle terror networks and financial support infrastructure; this must be complemented by countering radicalisation and the propagation of extremism,” he said.

He asked the people of Somalia to rise up bravely to seize back their country from the clutches of the al-Shabaab terrorist group. In particular, Ruto pointed out the involvement of local communities in countering al-Shabaab terrorists as “extremely brave and remarkable”.

“We congratulate President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on this radical strategic turnaround and the success that is now evident in many parts of Somalia.”

In order to sustain the resurgent momentum of the achievements made by Somalia, President Ruto explained, “it is time to firmly commit to improving our overall capacity to intervene effectively”.

“This can be achieved by enhancing the complementary mobilisation of law enforcement, intelligence and financial resources.”

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