Somalia’s al-Shabab armed group has launched a car bomb attack on a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, before fighters stormed inside, according to police.
A vehicle loaded with explosives crashed into the entrance gate of the Afrik hotel, near Mogadishu’s strategic K-4 junction, on Sunday afternoon, police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali said.
A number of gunmen then quickly invaded the hotel, opening fire on staff and patrons inside, he said.
Government forces responded to the attack and gunfire could be heard coming from the hotel. Police rescued many people from the hotel, including its owner and an army general, according to The Associated Press news agency.
At least seven wounded civilians could be seen, the news agency reported. Several ambulances ferried the wounded to hospital.
Police officer Ali Hassan told DPA more than nine people, most of them civilians, were killed in the attack.
Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked armed group that seeks to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Andalus radio station.
“We know, they have changed nothing from their usual tactic, ramming explosives into a building and following up, assaulting with rifles,” said Ali, the police spokesman.
Al-Shabab frequently carries out bombings in its war on Somalia’s government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops.
In a separate incident, at least eight children were killed and many others wounded when a bomb went off in the Golweyn area, about 40km (25 miles) north of the coastal town of Merca, some 120km (74 miles) south of Mogadishu.