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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's president escaped unhurt from an ambush on his military-escorted motorcade on Tuesday that al Qaeda-linked militants said they carried out.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was approaching the port town of Marka, south of the capital Mogadishu, when al Shabaab rebels said they fired rocket-propelled grenades at the convoy.
Local police commander Abdikadir Mohamed confirmed the attack and said the president arrived safely at Marka, 90 km from the capital. There was no immediate comment from the president's office.
The attack underscores the apparent ease with which Islamist al Shabaab rebels can infiltrate areas under the control of Somali government forces and African peacekeepers and strike at the heart of government.
"The president narrowly escaped. We are waiting for his return," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters.
The rebels said they killed several soldiers and destroyed two armored vehicles from the motorcade that was under escort by African Union and government troops.
The militants abandoned Marka and other urban redoubts last year under military pressure from advancing forces loyal to Mogadishu.
(Reporting by Abdalle Ahmed; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams)