Unidentified Attackers Seize Control Of Hotel In Somali Capital

Unidentified armed attackers have taken control of a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, following two car bomb blasts and gunfire, police and intelligence officers said on Friday.

"Two car bombs targeted Hotel Hayat. One hit a barrier near the hotel and then the other hit the gate of the hotel. We believe the fighters are inside the hotel," a police officer who gave his name only as Ahmed, told Reuters.

Two intelligence officers, who did not want to be identified, also confirmed the incident.

The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Jihadist group statements.

Al Shabaab has been fighting to topple the Somali government for more than 10 years. It wants to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

There were no immediate details available on any casualties, though explosions were still being heard from the hotel's direction, a Reuters witness said.

The Hayat Hotel is a popular venue with lawmakers and other government officials.

Police officers were conducting an operation aimed at stopping the attack, the state-run Somali National News Agency said on its Twitter account, citing a police spokesperson.

The agency posted a picture showing smoke billowing from above the scene.

Friday's attack is the first major attack since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.

Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past. In August 2020, it said it was behind an attack on another hotel in Mogadishu in which at least 16 people were killed.