Six Somali police officers were killed on Thursday when al Shabaab Islamist militants detonated a car bomb outside a regional government headquarters in the central city of Baidoa and then stormed inside the compound, police said.
The attack is the latest in a series launched by the group, which often targets official sites and politicians in the capital Mogadishu in its bid to topple the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam.
“First, a car bomb exploded at the southwest palace gate and then armed fighters went in,” police captain, Ali Ahmed, told Reuters from Baidoa, which lies northeast of the capital. “So far, six police men died.”
Islamist militants confirmed they were behind the attack.
Ahmed said fighting was continuing inside although he said the regional president Sharif Hassan had escaped to the Baidoa airport and was under the protection of African Union forces, which have been fighting the militants alongside Somali troops.
Ahmed said four police officers died in the car bomb explosion, while another two were killed during the shooting inside the palace.