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By Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Two men were killed in the Somali capital after they were spotted firing mortars that appeared to be aimed at the international airport on Sunday, police and officials said.

The heavily guarded, sprawling airport base is the site of many U.N. agencies, African Union peacekeepers and embassies.

"Two militants firing mortars were killed and then their car bomb exploded. There was no other casualty," said Abdifatah Omar Halane, the spokesman for the Mogadishu mayor.

"When they were spotted they fought police and so they were shot dead," said police Major Mohamed Nur. "Then their car exploded on its own. So far there are no casualties."

A Reuters photographer saw the two dead militants and their burnt car.

Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which carries most of the bomb and mortar attacks in the capital, could not be reached for comment.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab wants to overthrow the Somali government and impose their own strict interpretation of Islam. The group is carrying out increasingly large bomb attacks.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991 and the Mogadishu-based government relies heavily on foreign funding for its military and 22,000 African Union peacekeepers.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Reuters