An Ottawa man who returned to his native Somalia to take up a senior post in the government there was killed Friday in a suicide attack on the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

Mohamoud Abdulle was the director of the office of Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed — also of Ottawa — but had previously spent more than two decades in Ottawa working as a teacher and social worker, most recently with the Youth Services Bureau.

Somali interior ministry officials said on Thursday two attackers drove a vehicle bomb into the outer gate of Villa Somalia, the centre of government in Mogadishu. Seven more attackers wearing military uniforms similar to those of the Presidential Guard rushed into the compound. At least two wore suicide vests.

Abdulle and one other high-ranking official were killed, as were several palace guards and all of the attackers. The Somali president and the prime minister were not harmed.

Attack blamed on Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab

The Somali government blamed the attack on Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group at war with the governments of Somalia and Kenya.

Raage Mohamed, who also returned from Canada to his native Somalia to take up a seat in a regional Somali legislature was in Mogadishu when the attack happened.

"Over 10 people died," said Mohamed. "One of them was Mohamoud Hersi Abdulle, a good friend. A well-targeted and coordinated plan to attack the president and the prime minister. It seems that was their intention."

Abdirizak Mohamud worked closely with Abdulle during his time at the Youth Services Bureau, and said Abdsulle's death is another shock for the Ottawa Somali community, which has tried so hard to help the homeland.

"It's not the first time, and unfortunately it's creating some fear among people. Do they want to go back and try to create something in Somalia? I think people are questioning that now," said Mohamud.

Abdulle leaves behind a wife and children, who remain in Ottawa.