The attacks follow a push by Somalia's government to ratchet up offensives against the Al Qaeda-linked militants.

The health minister of Hirshabelle state and the deputy governor of Hiran in charge of finance were among those killed in the attack.
The health minister of Hirshabelle state and the deputy governor of Hiran in charge of finance were among those killed in the attack. (Reuters Archive)

Officials and witnesses say at least 20 people are dead and 36 others wounded after two explosions by militants targeted local government headquarters in the capital of Somalia’s Hiran region, which has been the centre of a recent mobilisation against the rebels. 

The Somalia-based armed group Al Shabab claimed responsibility for Monday's attack in Beledweyne, about 300 kilometres north of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

The Hiran governor, Ali Jayte Osman, who survived the 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 by phone 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.

READ MORE: Al Shabab suicide bomber targets Somalian military

Push against terrorists

The attacks follow a push by Somalia's government to ratchet up offensives against the Al Qaeda-linked militants, with the authorities announcing the killing of a top Al Shabab operative on Monday.

Abdullahi Yare, who had a $3.0-million bounty on his head, was killed in a joint air strike on October 1 by the Somali army and international security partners in southern Somalia, the ministry of information said in a statement.

"This leader... was the head preacher of the group and one of the most notorious members of the Shabab group," it said.

A co-founder of Al Shabab, Yare was believed to be next in line to take over the leadership of the movement from its ailing chief Ahmed Diriye, according to the ministry.

READ MORE: Al Shabab co-founder killed in joint operation: Somalia

Source: AP