Somalia car bombs kill at least nine

What you need to know:

The jihadists have been seeking to overthrow the fragile foreign-backed government in Mogadishu for about 15 years

At least nine people, including children, died on Saturday in twin car bomb attacks targeting Somalia's education ministry in the capital Mogadishu, security officers and witnesses said.

Two cars packed with explosives were detonated minutes apart near the busy Zobe junction and followed by gunfire, 

"I was among the first security officers to reach the area, I saw dead bodies of nine people most of them civilians including women and children," said security officer Ahmed Ali, adding that dozens had been wounded.

Another security officer Yusuf Abdullahi gave a similar toll. 

Police spokesman Sadik Dudishe did not give a death toll figure but said the incident was being investigated. 

"The ruthless terrorists killed mothers. Some of them died with their children trapped on their backs," he told reporters at a press briefing, adding the attackers had targeted "students and other civilians".

The response by security forces had stopped the attackers from reaching their intended location, Dudishe said. 

The afternoon explosions shattered windows of nearby buildings, sent shrapnel flying and clouds of smoke and dust into the air.

Abdirahman Ise, a witness, said the road had been busy when the first blast went off. 

"I saw huge smoke in the ministry area and there is massive destruction," another witness, Amino Salad, said. 

The attack happened at a busy junction where a truck packed with explosives blew up on October 14, 2017, killing 512 people and injuring more than 290.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Islamist group Al-Shabaab remains a potent force in the troubled Horn of Africa nation despite multinational efforts to degrade its leadership.

The jihadists have been seeking to overthrow the fragile foreign-backed government in Mogadishu for about 15 years.

Its fighters were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force but the group still controls swathes of countryside and has the capacity to wage deadly strikes on civilian and military targets.

They use threats of violence to collect taxes in territory under their jurisdiction.

The group last week claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in the port city of Kismayo that killed nine people and wounded 47 others. 

In August, the group launched a 30-hour gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat hotel in Mogadishu, killing 21 people and wounding 117.

- 'All-out war' -

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, vowed after the August siege to wage "all-out war" on the Islamists.

In September he urged citizens to stay away from areas controlled by jihadists, saying the armed forces and tribal militia were ratcheting up offensives against them.

A joint US-Somali drone strike killed one of the militants' most senior commanders on October 1.

Just hours after his death was announced, a triple bombing in the southern city of Beledweyne killed at least 30 people.

In addition to violence, Somalia -- like its neighbours in the Horn of Africa -- is in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years. Four failed rainy seasons have wiped out livestock and crops. 

The conflict-wracked nation is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change but is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the crisis as it battles the deadly Islamist insurgency.