MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Al-Qaida-linked militants detonated at least one bomb blast and engaged in ongoing battles with security forces in an attempt to breach the main U.N. compound in Mogadishu, officials said Wednesday.
Somali police officer, Abdi Hassan, said gunmen had breached the compound and were inside and the militant group al-Shabab said on its Twitter feed shortly after the attack that its fighters "are now in control of the entire compound and the battle is still ongoing."
The U.N. was trying to figure out the status of its employees. One U.N. official in Mogadishu and in contact with people inside the besieged compound said the gunmen had not been able to get inside.
A second U.N. official said the staff inside the building had been moved to bunkers and he suggested the staff wouldn't actually know if the gunmen were inside the compound or not. Both U.N. officials insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to be quoted by name.
"All I know is that it's sustained fire and they're inside so they don't know what's going inside," said one U.N. official. "We have bunkers so all staff have been moved to the bunkers where it's safe."
The official said the staff had described "several" explosions.
The compound under attack lies just across the street from the secure airport complex, where African Union military forces are based. The U.N. compound is used by agencies like UNICEF, WHO and UNDP.
The top U.N. official on Somalia, Nicholas Kay, also works out of the building. He was not inside the building when it was attacked and is safe inside the airport compound, one of the U.N. officials said.