MOGADISHU, Somalia — Gunmen from an Islamist militant group stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after a suicide car bombing on Saturday, killing at least five people, including the country’s deputy labor minister, the police said.
Somali security forces fought an hourslong gun battle with at least five assailants to retake control of the building, which houses the ministries of labor and works, a police officer, Capt. Mohamed Hussein, said.
The Reuters news agency, citing police sources, put the death toll at the end of the battle at 15.
Saqar Ibrahim Abdalla, Somalia’s deputy minister of labor and social affairs, was killed in his ground-floor office shortly after the gunmen stormed the building, Captain Hussein said.
Saturday is a working day in Somalia, and dozens of people were believed to be in the building at the time of the attack.
The Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack at the building, which is not far from the headquarters of the Somali intelligence agency. As the attack unfolded, gunfire could be heard from in the building. White smoke billowed from the scene, witnesses said.
A similar attack targeting a busy area in Mogadishu in February killed at least 24 people. That attack also began with a pair of car bombs exploding in a popular area of Mogadishu where Somalis were relaxing at restaurants.
The Shabab, who have links to Al Qaeda, frequently carry out suicide bombings targeting public places, hotels and government offices. They are Africa’s most active Islamist militant group, and have been fighting for years to take power and create an Islamic state in Somalia.
The group continues to mount lethal attacks despite being pushed out of Mogadishu, in part by African Union peacekeepers. It mostly operates from rural areas in the country’s south.
The group has carried out many deadly attacks in neighboring Kenya in retaliation over Kenya’s deployment in 2011 of peacekeepers in Somalia.