Five killed after al Shabaab gunmen storm into Somali ministry

Al Shabaab
Somali police take position after al Shabaab attacked Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu, March 27, 2015. Militants blasted their way into a popular hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Friday, killing at least seven people and trapping government officials inside, police and witnesses said. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

At least five people, including one African Union soldier, were killed when al Shabaab militants bombed and then stormed into a government building in Somali, a police officer said.

The gunmen attacked the Higher Education ministry building in Mogadishu on Tuesday, setting off two big blasts before they stormed inside and battled security forces.

Police and government officials confirmed that the Petroleum and Minerals ministry was in the same building as the Higher Education ministry.

“So far we confirmed five dead people including, one AU soldier, one government soldier and three civilians,” Colonel Hussein Ibrahim, a police officer, told Reuters, adding that 10 others were injured.

Ibrahim said at least two militants were killed and that the building had been secured after the raid, about an hour and a half after the explosions.

“AU forces were always inside the building for protection, otherwise the situation would be worse. Now the fighting is over and the building is secured,” he said.

The AU has been supporting Somali troops in a campaign against al Shabaab. The government relies heavily on the African peacekeepers for security, guarding major buildings and installations.

Al Shabaab military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters that the group was behind the attack.

The group has frequently launched such raids in Mogadishu in the past in its bid to topple the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

“First two blasts occurred, a bike blast and a car blast, outside the building, then armed fighters stormed in. Fighting goes on,” Major Ali Nur, a police officer told Reuters. He spoke while fighting still raged around the building.

He said he had seen five injured, but that it was too early to know the full extent of casualties.

Trader Omar Mohamed, who works near the scene, said he was thrown off his chair when the blasts went off. He said the explosions were followed by gunfire.

“From the top of the building the attackers fire and from all sides government forces pour in fire,” he said.

At the end of March, al Shabaab militants attacked a hotel in the Somali capital using similar tactics of blasting and shooting their way inside. The death toll in the attack on the popular Maka al Mukaram hotel was 14.


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