Militants stormed Somali government offices in Mogadishu on Saturday after setting off a car bomb, and officials said at least 10 people were killed, including a deputy minister. Authorities of Mogadishu's only free ambulance service said they had collected nearly 10 other wounded civilians.
According to eyewitnesses, the attack began when the suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car at the front gate of the compound that houses the Labor and Public Works and Reconstruction ministries.
"A car bomb hit the main gate of one of the compounds and then extremists armed with assault rifles stormed to the buildings, engaging a fierce battle with security forces," Ahmed Mohamed Iman, director general of Somalia's Ministry of Public Works and Reconstruction, who was present during the attack, told VOA Somalia.
Iman said some attackers rampaged through the buildings in an attempt to take some workers hostage, but were shot by the security forces.
"A huge blast occurred that forced my car to almost fly. Then I saw at least four gunmen in government uniforms storming into the building. I also saw the dead bodies of four civilians and several others wounded, lying along the road," said Somali lawmaker Mohamud Abdullahi Ahmed.
He said the Somali security forces evacuated dozens of government staff members from the buildings immediately after the assault, but during the attack the militants shot Saqar Ibrahim Abdalla, the deputy labor minister, who also was a lawmaker in the Somali Parliament.
Al-Shabab militants said in a statement that the group was behind the attacks and had killed number of government officials.
Separately, at least three other, smaller blasts were reported Saturday in different areas in Mogadishu.
Two of those explosions targeted a checkpoint manned by Somali security forces and patroling soldiers, killing four soldiers and wounding 10 civilians.
The latest assault and the blasts came days after dozens of Somali National Army soldiers staged a mutiny and left their front-line bases in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, complaining for months about the lack of salaries.
Analysis during the last six months shows the number of militants coming to and hiding in Mogadishu has increased because they are fleeing from U.S. drone attacks and special operations that target them in their bases outside Mogadishu.
Harun Maruf contributed to this report.