MOGADISHU• • At least five people were killed yesterday when gunmen stormed an upscale beachfront hotel in Somalia's capital following a car bomb blast outside, a government security official told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Al-Shabaab, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"There is still sporadic gunfire and the initial information we have received indicates five people died and more than 10 others were wounded. The death toll can increase because the blast was massive and there is a hostage situation involved," Mr Ahmed Omar told AFP.
State news agency Sonna 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 the ministry's spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar.
The head of a local ambulance service said at least 28 were injured. "So far we know 28 people are injured - we transported them before the exchange of gunfire began," Aamin ambulance service head Abdikadir Abdirahman told Reuters.
The hotel in Mogadishu is frequented by many government officials, government workers and people from the Somali diaspora.
Government worker Mohamed Nur, 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.
Somalia has been embroiled in deadly violence since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew leader Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Since 2008, Al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally recognised central government and establish its rule based on its own interpretation of Islamic law.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG