Militants detonated multiple bomb blasts and breached the main UN compound in Mogadishu yesterday, sparking gunbattles with security forces that killed at least 12 people.
UN personnel who reached the compound’s secure bunker all survived, though officials hinted not all reached that bunker.
An ambulance driver said that five Somalian civilians were killed and an Associated Press reporter who went inside the UN compound after the battle saw two dead bodies of what appeared to be al-Shabaab attackers wearing Somalian military uniforms. An official said seven attackers died in total.
Ben Parker, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, said that a first explosion was detonated at 11:30am and that at least two others followed.
Dozens of staff from UN humanitarian and development agencies were in the compound and many moved to a secure bunker, he said.
African Union and Somalian security forces responded and took control of the compound about an hour later. The UN staff who sought refuge in the bunker were then evacuated to the secure military base and airport complex across the street, Parker said.
“There is a provision there for a secure area within that compound and that wasn’t breached,” he said.
Parker was then asked if that meant all UN people survived.
“Assuming that people got to the safe area,” he said. “There was not very much time to get into the safe area.”
A second UN official said he believed four UN workers were killed, including one Kenyan, one Somalian and two South Africans. The official said seven attackers died.
Several UN guards were believed to have also been wounded, or worse. The official insisted on anonymity because he is not an official spokesmen.
Mohamed Ali, an ambulance driver, said he transported five dead civilian bodies and 10 people who were wounded.
Somalian Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said he was appalled that “our friends and partners” at the UN who are carrying out humanitarian activities would be the victims “of such barbaric violence.”
Al-Shabaab said on its Twitter feed shortly after yesterday’s attack that its fighters “are now in control of the entire compound and the battle is still ongoing.”
An AP reporter at the scene said one of the three blasts included a car bomb that largely pulled off the compound’s front gate. Bullet marks could be seen on the inside walls.