Shabab attack in Somalia's capital leaves at least 10 dead

Assistant minister among those killed when militants stormed ministries of public works and labour

epa07457777 Civilians flee the scene of a gun fight as Somali security forces battle al-Shabab fighters who stormed the government building after exploding a car bomb in central Mogadishu, Somalia, 23 March 2019. Reports say at least four people have been killed in the ongoing attack claimed by the country's Islamist militant group al-Shabab.  EPA/SAID YUSUF WARSAME

At least 10 people including an assistant minister were killed when Somalia's Al Shabab militants stormed a government building in the capital Mogadishu on Saturday.

The group detonated a car bomb outside the ministries of public works and labour, allowing other militants to enter the compound, triggering a gun battle that lasted several hours. Police said there were five attackers including the suicide bomber and all were killed.

"The building was secured by security forces. The four militants who attacked the building were shot dead. Another militant was a suicide car bomber and so he also died," Major Ali Abdullahi, a police officer, told Reuters.

He said 10 people, including assistant labour minister Saqar Ibrahim Abdala and police personnel, had died during the fighting.

Somalia's Radio Daslan station identified another of the dead as Mohamed Abdi Karie, an engineer who had just returned to the country from Yemen.

About 20 people were wounded in the attack, police said.

As the attack unfolded, gunfire could be heard from inside the building and white smoke billowed from the scene.

In a separate assault on Saturday, Al Shabab exploded a roadside bomb at a security checkpoint in Mogadishu that killed three government soldiers and also injured a local politician and three of his bodyguards, according to Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for the Al Qaeda-affiliated group.

Police confirmed the attack but said two civilians and one soldier had been killed by the blast while a politician from one of Somalia's federal states was injured.

The attacks come just weeks after a suicide car bombing targeted a Mogadishu hotel, killing 29 and injuring at least 80. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing.

"We targeted and stormed Hotel Maka Al Mukaram. We are still inside it,” Shabab spokesman Abdiasis said at the time.

The Somali government vowed to step up efforts to fight the group, following the nearly 24-hour standoff. "The Somali government will never stop its war on Al Shabab, our aim is to be done with them, whatever the cost," Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said.

Al Shabab is fighting to topple Somalia's western-backed central government and establish its own rule.

The group was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds across the country. But it remains a formidable threat, with its fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya.

Troops from Kenya form part of the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force Amisom that helps to defend Somalia's central government.

The US military has carried out a number of deadly air strikes in recent months against Al Shabab, which now operates mostly from rural areas in the country's south.