Several killed, nearly 30 injured in attack on hotel in Somali capital
At least five people were killed in a gun and bomb attack by suspected al-Shabab militants on an upscale beachfront hotel in Somalia's capital on Sunday, officials and witnesses said.
Security forces were struggling to regain control of the Elite Hotel in the Lido beach area more than an hour after the assault began, and the assailants appeared to have taken hostages, government security official Ahmed Omar told AFP.
"There is still sporadic gunfire and the initial information we have received indicates five people died and more than 10 others were wounded," he said.
"The death toll can increase because the blast was massive and there is a hostage situation involved."
Aamin Ambulance, a Mogadishu-based private service, reported that at least 28 people were wounded.
"So far we know 28 people are injured, we transported them before exchange of gunfire begun," he told Reuters.
State news agency SONNA reported that al-Shabab had attacked with a car bomb at the hotel entrance and armed militants. It said gunfire was coming from inside the hotel and that government security forces had been deployed.
"There are deaths and injuries of civilians who were passing near the hotel and others who were inside the hotel. Among the dead is one director of the information ministry," SONNA said, citing information ministry spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar.
Witnesses confirmed that the attack began with a heavy explosion and reported that people were running from the area as gunfire could be heard from the hotel, which is frequented by government officials.
"The blast was very heavy and I could see smoke in the area. There is chaos and people are fleeing from nearby buildings," said witness Ali Sayid Adan.
A police spokesman, Sadik Ali, confirmed there had been an explosion, adding: "We shall update you later."
Mohamed Nur, a government worker who lives near Lido beach said the government had deployed security forces in the area.
"The exchange of gunfire is terrible and stray bullets reached us near the beach," he added.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but it was similar to others carried out by the al-Shabab militant group, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.
Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of then-President Siad Barre's military regime, leading to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of al-Shabab which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab was driven out of the capital in 2011, but its militants continue to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.
Last week four Shabab militants held in Mogadishu's central prison were killed in an intense shootout with security forces after they somehow managed to get their hands on weapons within the facility.