Militant Islamists in Somalia have been involved in a gun battle with security forces at a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab said it was behind the attack at the Afrik Hotel, which began with a car bomb on Sunday afternoon.
A car hit the hotel’s front entrance and detonated before gunmen stormed the building, according to officials and others at the scene.
“The blast made the hotel tremble as we sat inside and were talking. We were panicked, confused,” eyewitness Ahmed Nur was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.
The militants targeted the Afrik Hotel despite the fact that it is in a heavily guarded area near the city’s main airport, the BBC’s Bella Hassan reported from Mogadishu.
The hotel is known to be a gathering place for Somali government officials and a local police captain said a number of lawmakers and senior military officials were inside at the time of the attack.
Footage on social media showed large plumes of smoke rising across the city earlier on Sunday.
The violent siege comes just weeks after former US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of some 700 troops who had been supporting local security force efforts against militant groups, including al-Shabab.
There are fears the withdrawal could lead to further instability in the country, which is due to hold elections next month. source BBC