MOGADISHU • At least 12 people were killed in the Somali capital yesterday after Shebab gunmen used a vehicle packed with explosives to blast their way into a hotel, the police said.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab claimed responsibility for the dawn attack at the Sahafi hotel, which is popular with Members of Parliament, government employees and businessmen.
Somalia's National and Intelligence Agency declared the attack over several hours after shooting began, although special forces appeared to be carrying out mopping-up operations with the Shebab still claiming to have fighters alive inside.
"It's now completely secured," the security agency said in a statement, without giving details of casualties.
African Union soldiers, battling alongside government troops, also said they had taken control of the building.
"Attackers exploded a car bomb to gain entry before going inside... we have reports of 12 dead," policeman Abdulrahid Dahir said.
Reported among the dead are a Somali journalist, colleagues said, as well as a former senior army commander.
United Nations envoy to Somalia, Mr Nick Kay, condemned the "bloody attack" which he said underlined the need to help support Somalia's security forces in stopping such attacks.
Witnesses said they saw several bodies of people killed in the initial blast, when a minibus packed with explosives was reportedly used to ram the gates of the hotel's fortified compound, which was followed by a second heavy explosion.
Shebab militants then stormed inside, with witnesses reporting intense gunfire and several loud blasts.
"There was a huge explosion and people around the entrance were killed," said Mr Mohamed Ismael, a witness, who was nearby when the attack began.