At least 10 people have been killed in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after Al Shabaab gunmen stormed a hotel following two explosions, police and witnesses say.
Al Shabaab, which has frequently launched attacks in Mogadishu in its bid to topple the Western-backed government, said it was behind the assault on the Sahafi hotel where government officials and lawmakers stay.
“Mujahideen [fighters] entered and took over Sahafi hotel where enemies lived. The operation still goes on,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
The incident mirrored tactics used before by Al Shabaab, in which it detonates bombs to break through security at targets and then sends in fighters.
Major Ahmed Nur, a police officer, said that a car bomb rammed the entrance to the hotel and was followed by second blast, which a security guard said was a second vehicle bomb.
Police said at least 10 people were killed, including the hotel owner, officials, guards and civilians.
Police were still exchanging fire with attackers inside the hotel about two hours after the assault began.
“Fighters with machines guns are firing at us from the rooftop of the hotel,” said Major Osman Ali, another police officer.
The hotel lies near a busy area in Mogadishu known as K-4.
Plumes of smoke rose above the capital on the Indian Ocean coast.
“We get phone calls from staff hiding in hotel rooms saying that there are several injured people in the hotel,” police officer Nur said.
“Some government officials are inside the hotel. The death toll may rise.”
A witness saw wrecked cars and destroyed motorbikes in the area, as well as two dead civilians lying outside.
At least three others were injured. Some parts of the hotel were damaged.