Gunmen are attacking a hotel in central Mogadishu following a car bombing at the entrance, according to witnesses and Somali police, with the Al-Shabaab jihadist group claiming responsibility.
Somali soldiers surrounded the Hotel Afrik and blocked off access to it, an AFP journalist reported.
The hotel is near the road leading to Mogadishu’s airport, frequented by officials, members of the security forces, and community leaders.
“There is ongoing (an) attack on a hotel… A car bomb hit the front entrance and armed men stormed the building,” police officer Mohamed Adan told AFP.
“There is an exchange of gunfire and the security forces are trying to rescue people inside from the attackers,” he added.
Witnesses confirmed a massive explosion followed by smoke after a car struck the hotel entrance at great speed, followed by gunfire.
“The gunfire is still going on and there was another blast after the first big one,” said Osman Saadaq, a witness.
Another witness, Muhubo Said, said “casualties could be possibly high”.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement, saying: “The mujahidin stormed in an ongoing operation inside Hotel Afrik where members of the apostate team are stationed.”
The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been waging a violent insurgency across Somalia seeking to unseat the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.