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Soldiers killed in blast targeting new Somali president

From David McKenzie, CNN
September 12, 2012 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)
Somalia's newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, pictured on September 10, 2012, delivering a speech in Mogadishu.
Somalia's newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, pictured on September 10, 2012, delivering a speech in Mogadishu.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Somalia's new leader escapes an apparent assassination attempt in Mogadishu
  • At least four Somali soldiers and one African Union soldier were killed, witnesses say
  • Two suicide bombers appear to have carried out the hotel attack, witnesses say
  • Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was voted in by Somali lawmakers Monday

(CNN) -- Somalia's new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, escaped an apparent assassination attempt in the capital, Mogadishu, on Wednesday, just two days after being selected as the troubled country's new leader.

According to a presidential press officer and several journalists at the scene, early indications are that the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers who set off explosives at the gates of the Jazeera Palace Hotel, where the president was having high-level meetings.

At least four Somali government soldiers and one African Union soldier were killed in the attack, according to journalists at the scene.

CNN affiliate KTN reported that Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri was in the hotel at the time of the blast.

Mohamud, a political newcomer who has worked for the United Nations and several other international organizations, was voted in by Somali lawmakers Monday.

Somalia picks political newcomer as president in landmark vote

His election marked a milestone for the nation, which plunged into chaos after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown 21 years ago. Following his ouster, clan warlords and militants battled for control, sparking a civil war and mayhem nationwide.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since then and has mostly remained under a shaky transitional federal government.

On Tuesday, the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab, which has been fighting to overthrow the authorities, released a statement dismissing the elections and calling them a Western plot.

It vowed to oppose the newly named government.

Al-Shabaab "does not regard the so called elections as being in the interests of the Somali people. They represent Western interests, and interests of their agents in the region," the statement said.

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