MOGADISHU • Islamist militants rammed a car bomb into the gate of a hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu yesterday and stormed inside, killing at least 28 people, government officials said.
Gunfire rang out as fighters entered the Dayah Hotel, which is popular with politicians. A second blast shook the area shortly afterwards, injuring several journalists and others nearby.
Colonel Abdiqadir Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters that security forces eventually managed to secure the building.
"We have rescued the people and concluded the operation at Dayah Hotel. The security forces are now inside the hotel and we shall give further details of casualties later," he said.
Dr Duniye Mohamed, a doctor at Madina hospital, said some of the people taken there were very seriously wounded.
Dr Abukadir Abdirahman Adem, head of the ambulance service, said: "The number of casualties we have recorded today is 28 dead and 43 wounded. This is what we have confirmed with our teams; there were also other ambulances which carried some casualties (but) I don't know how many."
Pictures showed huge flames immediately after the blast. Several cars and buildings were destroyed by the explosion.
Islamist group Al Shabaab, which until 2011 controlled much of Somalia, including Mogadishu, claimed responsibility for the attack.
"Well-armed mujahideen (fighters) attacked the hotel, and now they are fighting inside the hotel," said an announcer on Andalus radio, which is linked to Al Shabaab.
The insurgents often launch bomb and gun attacks in the capital in their quest to topple the Western-backed government and impose their strict interpretation of Islamic law on the nation.
In the past two years, African Union and Somali forces have driven the group out of key urban strongholds, but it remains active from bases in rural areas.
Last month, more than 20 people were killed when a truck laden with explosives was detonated near a military base close to the Mogadishu port.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE