Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabaab, stormed a hotel in the capital on Wednesday evening, killing at least six people and taking a number of hostages, police said. The scene at the Ambassador Hotel, frequented by government officials and business executives, appeared to be at a standoff overnight.
“At least two gunmen are still holed up inside the building now,” police Capt Mohamed Hussein said earlier.
Two members of parliament were among the dead, he said. At least part of the hotel burned.
The attack began when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the hotel’s gates. Fighters on foot then forced their way into the hotel.
The attack comes on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which extremists often step up attacks in this volatile East African country.
A bloodied body of a suspected extremist lay outside the hotel, which was surrounded by heavily armed soldiers. Witness Yasin Abdi said he saw security forces escorting some people from the three-story hotel.
Somalia’s elite forces used rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns mounted on cars to fight assailants who took up positions on the hotel’s second floor.
The attack underlines challenges facing the Somali government and African Union forces that are struggling to secure the seaside capital, which has seen a series of attacks by al-Shabaab. An attack on another Mogadishu hotel and public garden in February killed at least nine civilians. A car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in the capital in April, killing at least five.
The insurgents have been ousted from most of Somalia’s cities.
Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon said a US drone strike on Friday targeted a senior military commander of al-Shabaab in Somalia, Abdullahi Haji Da’ud. US officials said they couldn’t confirm yet if he was killed.