Somali ministry in Mogadishu hit by Al Shabaab car bomb attack

People stand near damaged buildings after a suicide car bomb exploded, targeting a hotel in a business centre in Maka Al Mukaram street, Mogadishu, Somalia on March 1, 2019. (Reuters pic)

MOGADISHU: Central Mogadishu was shaken on Saturday by a car bomb blast at a government ministry building, with Islamist group al Shabaab claiming responsibility for the attack in the Somali capital.

“The first blast took place at the Ministry of Labour … there are also other ministry buildings near the scene. It was a suicide car bomb followed by gunfire,” police officer Major Mohamed Hussein said, adding there had been a second explosion.

Al Shabaab, which is fighting to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Sharia law, said one of its fighters had rammed the ministry building with a car bomb, allowing others to enter it.

“We are inside the building and (the) fighting goes on. We shall give details later,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman told Reuters.

Al Shabaab, which is trying to topple Somalia’s western-backed central government, was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds.

But it remains a threat, with its fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, whose troops form part of the African Union mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM that helps defend Somalia’s central government.