Al Shabaab Islamist militants on Tuesday attacked a government building housing two ministries in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
Reuters reports that the insurgents started by blasting the building, then stormed inside and executed everyone on sight.
The attacked ministries were that for higher education and petroleum and minerals.
Security managed to overpower them after a heavy gunfire exchange to retake the buildings.
“First two blasts occurred, a bike blast and a car blast, outside the building, then armed fighters stormed in,” Major Ali Nur, a police officer, told Reuters.
Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu, confirmed that the group was behind the attack.
Government spokesman, Ridwaan Haji, said on his official Twitter account that 10 people had been killed in the attack, including two soldiers and eight civilians.
He said seven militants had also been killed.
Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu ambulances, told Reuters at least 15 civilians had been killed and 20 others injured.
Al Shabaab said only three of its fighters were killed and that 20 others, including soldiers and ministry workers, had died.
Other sources say the death toll has risen to 18; eight civilians, two security police officers, one AU soldier and seven attackers.
In a statement, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia Ambassador Maman Sidikou condemned the attack on the Ministry of Education.
He said, “I commiserate with the families of innocent civilians killed while trying to earn a living. This latest attack in which the Ministry of Education was the target, is a clear manifestation that Al Shabaab are against progress in Somalia”.
Ambassador Sidikou commended the special forces of the National Intelligence Service Agency (NISA) and AMISOM, for saving the lives of many civilians including workers at the Ministry of Education.
“I commend the gallant officers who acted swiftly and stopped the militants from gaining entry inside the Ministry of Education building. They saved many lives,” added Ambassador Sidikou.
The attack comes after the Garissa 148 students’ massacre in Kenya by the same militants.
Al Shabaab lost control of Mogadishu in 2011 and has been driven out of remaining major strongholds in a joint AU-Somalia military offensive launched last year.