At least nine people have been killed and more than a dozen others wounded in an attack on Somalia‘s interior ministry in the capital, Mogadishu.
Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said the attack began on Saturday morning when a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at the gate of the interior ministry, located close to the presidential palace and the headquarters of parliament. Another blast went off outside a police station nearby.
A two-hour gun battle ensued, in which all three attackers were killed by security forces, police said.
A number of people, mostly government workers, were trapped in the ministry on what had been a normal business day. Witnesses said some staffers died or were injured while leaping from windows or walls in an effort to escape.
Dozens of people eventually were rescued in the operation, Hussein said, as ambulance sirens echoed.
Al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of the capital. It was blamed for the October truck bombing that killed more than 500 people in the deadliest attack in the country’s history.
The group is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s central government and establish its own rule based on its interpretation of Islamic law in the Horn of Africa country.
At one point, the group controlled most parts of the country, but since 2010, its fighters have been removed from most major towns and cities.
The US military and others in the international community have expressed concern about the plan for Somalia’s security forces to take over the country’s security from a multinational African Union force over the next few years, saying the local troops are not yet ready.