Explosions, Gunfire Reported at Hotel in Somali Capital Featured

Assailants attacked a hotel in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Friday, setting off explosions and firing guns.

Witnesses told VOA's Somali Service that they heard two or three blasts near the Hayat Hotel at the KM4 junction Friday evening. Initial reports said the assailants attacked the hotel with suicide car bombs before gunmen went inside.

A police officer told the Reuters news service that one car bomb hit near the hotel and another hit the hotel's gate.

One witness said a gunbattle was going on inside the hotel fora time, with security forces trying to fend off the attackers.

Somali police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan said the gunmen were "being engaged by the police forces," according to Agence France-Presse.

"We don't have the details so far but there are casualties, and the security forces are now engaging with the enemy who are holed up inside the building," security official Abdukadir Hassan told AFP.

An ambulance service told Reuters that nine wounded people had been taken from the hotel.

Islamist militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blasts. A statement on the group's website said, "Our fighters seized the hotel and are fighting now inside. We are targeting government officials who are in the hotel."

The group, which has been waging an insurgency in Somalia for about 15 years, often targets cafes and hotels like the Hayat in Mogadishu that are patronized by political and security officials./agencies