Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN)Gunmen stormed the headquarters of Somalia’s higher education ministry in the country’s capital Tuesday, sparking a gunbattle with security forces that left at least eight people dead and 10 others injured, police said.
The Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab is responsible for the attack in the center of Mogadishu, group spokesman Abu Musab said.
Security personnel eventually shot and killed all the attackers, city police Capt. Mohamud Abdi said. The eight dead include the attackers, Abdi said, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many assailants there were.
The battle began after a car bomb exploded at the building’s main gate. A plume of black smoke rose from the area early Tuesday afternoon.
Security guards at the building, and, later, Somali special forces battled the gunmen inside, witnesses said.
By 2 p.m., special forces had ended the attack, Abdi said.
The special forces helped people out of the two-story building while the attack was underway, Abdi said. Ali Hassan, a man who was helped from the building, confirmed that a rescue operation was happening inside.
Somalia-based Al-Shabaab has battled the country’s government for years, aiming to overthrow it and turn the nation into a fundamentalist Islamic state. In recent years, the group also launched terror attacks beyond Somalia’s borders, sometimes targeting non-Muslims.
What is Al-Shabaab, and what does it want?
Earlier this month, Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed Garissa University College in neighboring Kenya, killing 147 people, mostly students. The terrorists separated Christians from Muslims and shot those who couldn’t recite verses from the Quran, witnesses said.
In Somalia, Al-Shabaab has been blamed for attacks that have killed international aid workers, journalists, civilian leaders and African Union peacekeepers.
Late last month, Al-Shabaab militants detonated a bomb and sprayed bullets at a Mogadishu hotel, leaving at least 20 people dead in an attack that lasted a number of hours. Among those killed was Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, Somalia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Journalist Omar Nor reported from Mogadishu. CNN’s Jason Hanna wrote in Atlanta.