At least 15 people have been killed, including four foreigners, in a suicide and gun attack by Somali militant group al-Shabab on a U.N. compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Witnesses say security guards and gunmen exchanged fire for hours before government fighters regained full control of the compound after the attack.
Wednesday's bombing and gun attack on the offices of the U.N. Development Program targeted humanitarian workers going about their daily routine in the compound.
Somali Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled says 15 people were killed, among them eight U.N. staffers, including four Somalis, three South Africans, and a Kenyan woman.
“The exact figures of the people killed in the attack we have now is four foreigners and four Somalis who were mostly working on matters related to security issues, and seven terrorists who carried out the attack. The rest were rescued by Somali forces,” he said.
One witness who was 200 meters away from the scene said the attackers first hit the compound with explosives.
He says he heard five explosions, later followed by sporadic gunfire in and around the U.N. compound.
“A car full of explosives hit the gate of the UN compound, and then I saw three to four armed men dressed in military fatigues shooting and then it was followed by exchange of fire between the U.N. guards and the attackers,” he said.
In a statement, the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, condemned Wednesday’s attack.
He said the attack was an act of terrorism and a desperate attempt to knock Somalia off its path of recovery and peace building.
The U.N. provides humanitarian assistance to millions of hungry Somalis in the country. It is also helping the Somali government in building national institutions.
Over the years, al-Shabab has viewed whoever provides assistance to the Somali government as an enemy.
In recent months the group has resorted to carrying out sporadic attacks on government facilities, after African Union and Somali forces pushed the group out of its strongholds across southern Somalia.
In April more than 30 people were killed when al-Shabab fighters stormed the Supreme Court complex in Mogadishu.
Somali government soldiers evacuate an injured man after a suicide bomb attack at a U.N. compound in Mogadishu, June 19, 2013.
Somali government soldiers arrive to secure a U.N. compound following a suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu, June 19, 2013.
Somali men and a police carry a government soldier wounded during an attack on the U.N. compound in Mogadishu, June 19, 2013.
A Somali government soldier runs to take cover during crossfire after gunmen attacked a U.N. compound in Mogadishu, June 19, 2013.