At least nine people are dead and more than 10 wounded in an ongoing extremist attack on Somalia’s interior ministry, police have said.
Colonel Ahmed Mohamed said the death toll could rise as security forces battle several gunmen holed up inside.
A number of people, mostly government workers, are said to be trapped in the ministry on what had been a normal business day.
The al-Shabab extremist group, an arm of al Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the attack in Mogadishu that police said began with a suicide car bombing at the gate of the ministry.
Three gunmen were believed to be holed up inside the ministry, police said.
Ambulance sirens echoed across the area as soldiers opened fire to disperse bystanders and motorists.
Somalia-based al-Shabab, an arm of al Qaida, often targets high-profile areas of the capital. It was blamed for the October truck bombing that killed more than 500 people in the deadliest attack in the country’s history.
The threat from what has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa has hurt efforts to strengthen Somalia’s fragile government and stabilise the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation.
The US under the Trump administration has stepped up military efforts in Somalia, including dozens of drone strikes, against al-Shabab and a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group. At least two US military personnel have been killed.