BY ABDI GULED
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) — Gunmen set off a suicide car bombing and then stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital Saturday, killing at least five people including the country’s deputy labor minister, police said. It was the latest attack by Islamic extremists in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.
After an hours-long gunbattle, Somalia’s security forces took back control of the building in Mogadishu on Saturday afternoon from at least five attackers who forced their way into the government building that houses the ministries of labor and public works, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press.
Saqar Ibrahim Abdalla, Somalia’s deputy minister of labor and social affairs, was killed in his ground-floor office shortly after gunmen entered the building, he said.
Hussein said at least 10 other people were wounded in the attack, which the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group has claimed responsibility for.
Dozens of people were inside the building at the time since Saturday is a working day in Somalia. The building is not far from the headquarters of the Somali intelligence agency.
As the attack unfolded, gunfire could be heard from inside the building. White smoke billowed from the scene, according to witnesses.
A similar attack targeting a busy area in Mogadishu at the end of February killed at least 24 people.
Al-Shabab, Africa’s most active Islamic extremist group, has been fighting for years to take power and create an Islamic state in Somalia. It frequently carries out suicide bombings targeting public places, hotels and government offices despite being pushed out of Mogadishu. It mostly operates from rural areas in the country’s south.
African Union peacekeepers stationed in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the country have helped Somali forces to keep al-Shabab fighters at bay.
The extremist group has also carried out many deadly attacks in neighboring Kenya in retaliation over the country’s deployment in 2011 of peacekeepers in Somalia.
The U.S. military has carried out a number of deadly airstrikes in recent months against al-Shabab.
Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.