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9 militants killed in attack on Somali presidential palace

MOGADISHU, Somalia— Nine Al Shabab militants wearing military fatigues and carrying guns and grenades died after attacking the presidential palace with two car bombs on Friday, in an assault the president called a ‘‘media spectacular’’ by a ‘‘dying animal.’’

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was unhurt, but two officials were killed, the interior ministry said.

The attack underscores a worrying new trend in Mogadishu: That despite a period of relative calm following Al Shabab’s ouster from Mogadishu in August 2011, militants have carried out a series of deadly assaults in recent weeks that have seen the city hit with mortar fire and pitched battles.

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Weapons meant for the Somali army could have been used by the militants in Friday’s attack. A confidential UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported this month that the country’s military is selling weaponry in markets where the Al Qaeda-linked militants buy arms.

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In at least one case weapons were sold by a military commander directly to an Al Shabab commander, the confidential report said.

Friday’s attack against the compound where the president and prime minister live began with a car bomb explosion, followed by an assault by gunmen on palace guards, said police Captain Mohamed Hussein. Al Shabab claimed responsibility.

The Interior Ministry displayed the seven bloodied and dead bodies of the attackers and said two others blew themselves up. The wreckages of two car bombs lay nearby.

Al Shabab has been waging war in Somalia for years as it tries to oust a Western-backed government.