Somali commandos stormed the municipal government building in the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday to end a five-hour siege by al-Shabab militants during which five civilians were killed, state media and officials said.
The attack began with a car bomb explosion at the entrance of the building in the Hamarweyne district before militants pretending to be soldiers raided the compound.
The information ministry said security forces rescued all government staff from the building and shot dead six militants involved in the assault.
Media outlets affiliated with al-Shabab quoted a spokesperson for the group as saying that “34 apostates” were killed in the attack. Al-Shabab refers to the government as “apostate”, which in turn calls the group “Khawarij”, meaning ultra-extremists.
Mogadishu mayor Yussuf Hussein Jim’ale was out of the country at the time of the attack.
In 2019, an al-Shabab suicide attack on the same building killed then Mogadishu mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman.
The government said the latest “senseless” al-Shabab violence was proof that “it is necessary to completely eliminate” the group from the country, according to the state-run Sonna news agency.
Analysts say al-Shabab has demonstrated its ability to strike back at government targets with deadly force despite losing a large swathe of territory to the national army and allied clan militias in recent months.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said last Tuesday that the government was “about to conclude the first phase” of an offensive against al-Shabab that started in August and that it “will soon launch the second phase”.