At least five civilians were killed when members of the al-Shabab armed group set off a bomb then stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, the ministry of information has said.
Attackers from the group charged into the block that houses the office of Mogadishu’s mayor around noon (09:00 GMT) and engaged in a firefight with security forces, the ministry said on Sunday.
Security forces killed six members of the armed group and cleared the area by about 6pm, it said on its Facebook page.
Al-Shabab has stepped up attacks in a show of resilience since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s government launched an offensive against the al-Qaeda-linked group in August.
“We were in the office and we were deafened by a blast. We ran out. Gunfire followed,” Farah Abdullahi, who works in the mayor’s office, told Reuters.
Sixteen people were injured in the attack, Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Aamin Ambulance Services, said.
The mayor’s office is located in the local government headquarters building in a well-guarded area of Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab said in a statement that its bombers struck “then foot fighters entered the building after killing the building guards”.
The armed group, which has been fighting the government since 2006 and seeking to impose its own interpretation of Islamic law, frequently carries out bombings and gun attacks across the country.
In a sign that the government was expanding its offensive against the group into Somalia’s south, state TV for Jubbaland, one of the country’s semi-autonomous states, reported on Sunday that regional and Somalia federal forces had launched attacks on al-Shabab and taken control of Janay Abdale town from the armed group.