Al-Shabaab claims bomb, gun attack in downtown Mogadishu

REUTERS - FEISAL OMAR

A huge blast tore through buildings near the mayor's office in central Mogadishu on Sunday, with gunfire erupting afterwards in an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab, according to police and witnesses.

"Terrorists blasted a vehicle loaded with explosives onto a perimeter wall of the Mogadishu mall which is next to the Banadir administration headquarters," police officer Abdullahi Mohamed told French news agency AFP.

Witnesses said the explosion damaged nearby buildings and gunfire could be heard near the mayor's office.

"There is gunfire going on inside the vicinity of the main building but we don't know what is happening inside," a witness who runs a business near the offices said.

"There are some casualties but the whole area is cordoned off and we have been asked to move away by the security forces."

Another witness, Omar Nur, said he was inside the mall when the explosion went off and "was lucky to have escaped safely."

String of attacks

Al-Shabaab, a militant group allied with Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack via its communication channels, saying its fighters "made their way inside the targeted building after killing the security guards."

The militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally backed central government for 15 years, carrying out attacks both in Somalia and neighbouring countries.

The latest attack comes days after seven soldiers were killed on Friday at a military camp in Galcad, a town in central Somalia about 375 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu.

(with wires)


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