A massive suicide car bomb killed at least five dozen people near a government compound in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Government officials told Western media that a truck laden with explosives detonated after driving into a gate near a government building. Rescue workers found at least 40 wounded people.

A police officer on duty told The Associated Press that the truck exploded after it pulled up to a security checkpoint on the way to the government compound.

Mohammed Dhore, a BBC correspondent in Mogadishu, wrote: “I arrived at the scene by foot about 30 minutes after the [truck] exploded. It was shocking. At least 11 bodies burnt beyond recognition were lying on the ground. The main buildings and surrounding trees were on fire. First-aid workers were carrying severely wounded people to ambulances. Two people with blood all over their legs were shouting for help.”

Dhore added: “People came rushing to the scene, but it is hard to identify the bodies. Some people were crying -- it was very emotional. Somali government soldiers then began shooting in the air to get the crowds to move as it was rumored that other suicide vehicles may be in the area. They are stopping and searching all cars. There are no vehicles moving in this area of the city.”

BBC reported that a spokesman for al-Shabab, an Islamic militant group that controls much of Somalia, took responsibility for the suicide bombing.

If al-Shabab did indeed carry out the killing, it would represent their boldest attack since withdrawing from the capital city in August.

Somalia's planning Minister Abdullahi Godah Barreh, an eyewitness, told the BBC: I was in my office when the incident happened. All of a sudden a huge, huge sound and all the furniture and all the windows and all the walls started falling apart. The building that has been destroyed houses, eight ministries, and you can imagine how crowded it would have been. I expect the casualty toll to be very high.”

Barreh said he believes many soldiers were among the dead.

There was some protection, but unfortunately, it was not good enough,” he added.

Almost half of the cabinet sit in that building. So you can understand it was a good target for them -- the terrorists.

The Mogadishu-based transitional government, which is supported by the United Nations but has little power outside the capitol city, condemned the attack and assured no senior state officials were hurt in the blast – although the bombing occurred near government offices.

The attack shows that the danger from terrorists is not yet over and that there are obviously still people who want to derail the advances that the Somali people have made towards peace, the government in a statement.