At least ten people have been killed and dozens of others wounded in a gun and bomb attack by suspected al-Shabab fighters on an upmarket beachfront hotel in Somalia’s capital, officials and witnesses have 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 on Sunday.
The attackers appeared to have taken hostages, security official Ahmed Omar told the AFP news agency.
“There is still sporadic gunfire and the initial information we have received indicates five people died,” 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.
Witnesses confirmed 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.
The dead included at least one government official, according to an information ministry spokesman, Hussein Ali.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but it was similar to others carried out by the al-Shabab group, which is affiliated with 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 fighters continue to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.
Last week, four al-Shabab fighters held in Mogadishu’s central prison were killed in a shootout with security forces after they reportedly managed to get their hands on weapons within the facility.