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Al-Shabab attack kills at least 12 people in Somali city

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Officials and witnesses say at least 12 people are dead after extremist fighters targeted local government headquarters in the capital of Somalia’s Hiran region, which has been the center of a recent mobilization against al-Shabab.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in Beledweyne, more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia’s government earlier Monday announced that it and international partners had killed a top al-Shabab leader, Abdullahi Nadir, over the weekend. The U.S. military said it conducted an airstrike on Saturday in southwest Somalia but didn’t name the al-Shabab leader killed.

The Hiran governor, Ali Jayte Osman, who survived Monday’s attack, told The Associated Press by phone that the health minister of Hirshabelle state and the deputy governor of Hiran in charge of finance were among those killed in Monday’s attack.

“The first explosion occurred at the entrance gate, and after a few minutes a big truck rushed toward the headquarters building and exploded, killing many civilians who came to the office to receive services,” the governor said. “This attack was carried out by cowards, but their brutal acts will never distract from the public uprising against them.” He said the attack badly damaged the administration’s headquarters.

Witness Elmi Hassan told the AP that a truck laden with explosive materials rammed the government headquarters around 10:00 a.m.

“I have seen with my own eyes several bodies that were discovered from the wreckage of the attack, human flesh scattered on the ground,” he said.

The police commissioner of Beledweyne, Bishar Hussein Jimale said that the attack occurred at the Lama-Galaay military camp that also serves as the government headquarters.

“What happened here today is a disaster that killed many innocent people including government officials, civilians and security personnel,” he said.

Despite the attack, some residents remained defiant as efforts continue in the region to seize communities back from al-Shabab control.

“We will not be intimidated by this and we will not stay away from our battle against the terrorists. We will fight until the end, until we defeat you,” resident Hassan Ali said.

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