Gunmen storm hotel in Mogadishu

According to reports, large blasts and gunfire could be heard from the site.

Somalia Flag. Picture: Wikipedia.

MOGADISHU - Somalia's al-Shabaab Islamist group launched a suicide bomb attack on a hotel in the centre of Mogadishu on Saturday before militant fighters stormed the building, a police officer said.

The official gave no details of any casualties and there was no immediate comment from al-Shabaab, which frequently carries out attacks in the capital in its bid to topple the Western-backed government.

"They started with a suicide bomb and then stormed in. Now they are inside and the heavy exchange of gunfire continues," Major Nur Farah told Reuters.

He said Nasahablood hotel had been targeted. "It is too early to give details," he added.

Muslims in Somalia and around the world are observing Ramadan. In previous years, al-Shabaab has often intensified attacks during the fasting month, often picking targets where people gather just before or after breaking the fast.