At least 12 people were killed in the Somali capital on Sunday after Shebab gunmen used a vehicle packed with explosives to blast their way inside a hotel, 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.
The Shebab said they were still fighting security forces, but African Union soldiers, battling alongside government troops, 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.
Witnesses said they had seen several bodies of people killed in the inital 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 commandos 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 Mohamed Ismael, a witness, who was nearby when the attack began.
Shebab insurgents, who are fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu, have carried out a string of attacks on hotels in the capital.