Al-Shabaab militants stormed Somalia's parliament building yesterday in a deadly and prolonged assault involving a suicide bomber, a car bomb and gunmen on foot and killing at least 10.
The attack by the Islamist group, which claimed responsibility for the siege at a Kenyan shopping mall that killed 67 people last year, started with a car bomb at a gate to the heavily fortified parliament compound. It was followed by a suicide bombing and then a gun battle that continued for some hours.
After what was described by the UN as "an attack against the people", a police officer confirmed that four of his colleagues had been killed. Hours after the initial explosion, gunfire and smaller blasts could still be heard around the building.
One soldier was killed when he tried to stopped a suicide bomber from entering the building, said police captain Mohamed Hussein. Six attackers were confirmed dead.
"We are behind the suicide bombing, explosions and the fighting inside the so-called Somali parliament, and still heavy fighting is going on inside," said al-Shabaab's spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab.
The attack on the parliament building, about 300 metres from the presidential palace, has shown that the al Qa'ida-linked group remains capable of hitting the centre of Mogadishu, despite being pushed out of the capital two years ago.
Many members of parliament were inside the building as the events unfolded. Two were wounded by gunfire, said Mohamed Ali MP. "The enemy can now access everywhere," added Mohamed Nor MP.
"The terrorists have once again shown that they are against all Somalis, by killing our innocent brothers and sisters. These cowardly, despicable actions are not a demonstration of the true Islamic faith," the Prime Minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, stated.
Nicholas Kay, a UN Special Representative for Somalia, added: "Today's attack is an attack against the people of Somalia, for which there can be no justification."
In February, at least 11 people were killed when al-Shabaab attacked the presidential compound. In April, they killed two lawmakers.
Some Western diplomats believe this attack will add to pressure on President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud from about 100 MPs, who last month called for him to be impeached over worsening security.