MOGADISHU (Reuters/Al Jazeera) – Two car bomb explosions at the education ministry in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu killed or wounded scores of people on Saturday, police and the state news agency said.
It was not known who was behind the blasts but the militant group al Shabaab frequently carries out bombings and gun attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
“Two car bombs hit the walls of the ministry,” police captain Nur Farah said.
The first explosion hit the ministry then the second blast occurred as ambulances arrived and people gathered to help the victims, Farah told Reuters.
A police officer guarding the ministry, who gave his name as Hassan, told Reuters he saw at least 12 bodies and more than 20 people wounded.
State news agency SONNA, said the blasts had caused “scores of civilian casualties including independent journalist Mohamed Isse Kona.”
A Reuters journalist near the blast site said the two explosions occurred within minutes of each other and smashed windows in the vicinity. Blood from victims of the blasts covered the tarmac just outside the building, he said.
“The second blast burnt our ambulance as we came to transport the casualties from the first blast,” Abdikadir Abdirahman of the Aamin Ambulance Service told Reuters.
A driver and a first aid worker had been injured in the blast, he said.
Al-Qaeda-allied al Shabaab, which has been fighting in Somalia for more than a decade, is seeking to topple the central government and establish its own rule.
Thousands of Somalis have been killed in the decade-long rebellion.
In August, al-Shabab launched a 30-hour gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat hotel in Mogadishu, killing 21 people and wounding 117.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, pledged after the August siege to wage “all-out war” on the group. The militants responded by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent effort to dissuade support for that government offensive.
Saturday’s attack in Mogadishu occurred on a day when the president, prime minister, and other senior officials were meeting to discuss combating the armed group.