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Car bomb claimed by Al-Shabab kills 16 near Somalia’s presidential palace

Click to play video: 'Security forces respond to deadly car bomb in Mogadishu' Security forces respond to deadly car bomb in Mogadishu
WATCH: Police said at least five people were killed when a car bomb linked to al Shabaab exploded near the president's residence in the Somali capital on Saturday – Dec 22, 2018

An explosives-packed vehicle detonated at a military checkpoint near Somalia’s presidential palace, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 20 others, police said. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which often targets Mogadishu, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Those killed include three staffers from the London-based Universal TV station, including prominent journalist Awil Dahir Salad, said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein, who gave the toll of dead and wounded.

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.

A man walks near destroyed buildings after a bomb blast in the capital city of Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018.
A man walks near destroyed buildings after a bomb blast in the capital city of Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh

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

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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.

READ MORE: At least 6 killed, 14 injured in suicide bombing on government office in Mogadishu

“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-Shabab, 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.

WATCH: Car bomb claims 6 lives in Mogadishu, Al Shabaab claims responsibility

Click to play video: 'Car bomb claims 6 lives in Mogadishu, Al Shabaab claims responsibility' Car bomb claims 6 lives in Mogadishu, Al Shabaab claims responsibility
Car bomb claims 6 lives in Mogadishu, Al Shabaab claims responsibility – Sep 2, 2018

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

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