The militants took an unknown number of hostages during the siege. Many other government workers and civilians in the court complex — a confusing labyrinth of buildings and rooms — hid while fearing for their lives.
Western officials knew militants had been planning a major violent incident. The British Foreign Office on Friday released a travel warning for Somalia that warned of a high threat of terrorism. “We continue to believe that terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks in Mogadishu,” it said.
The complex and sustained nature of the assault on the court system suggested the extremists hoped to inflict severe casualties. Later, a suicide car bomber rammed a vehicle carrying Turkish citizens, killing two.
On a Twitter feed believed to belong to the militants, al-Shabab appeared to take credit for the attack. A posting said five militants from the “Martyrdom Brigade” took part in the “daring” attack.
“Such brazen attacks, on a broad daylight and in the heart of Mogadishu, are a clear testament to the influence of HSM forces in the capital,” one posting said. HSM is an abbreviation for al-Shabab.
Nine militants attacked the court complex, and that six of them detonated suicide vests, said Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled. The three others were shot and killed during the assault, he said. Guled said he couldn’t immediately provide an overall death toll.