Gunmen battle police in Somali capital after bombing

While one Al-Shabaab fighter blew themselves up in the car bomb late on Thursday, other fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked group had then stormed inside a restaurant, where they were encircled by police.

FILR: Shells of vehicles burn outside the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu on 28 February 2019 after a car bomb exploded, killing at least five people and wounding 25 others. Witnesses described how the blast ripped through one of the busiest streets of the capital in the early evening, filled with people relaxing after a day at work. Picture: AFP

MOGADISHU - Gunmen battled security forces in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Friday morning, hours after insurgents launched a car bomb attack in a busy street that left at least five dead, police said.

While one al-Shabaab fighter blew themselves up in the car bomb late on Thursday, other fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group had then stormed inside a restaurant, where they were encircled by police.

"There are still some armed men inside a building," police officer Ibrahim Mohamed said on Friday, as sporadic bursts of gunfire and grenade explosions could be heard. "Security forces are trying to storm the building."

The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults the al-Qaeda linked group has carried out.

Witnesses close to the area reported sounds of explosions on Friday morning as fighting continued, more than 12 hours after the initial attack that began with the car bomb.

"Gunmen are still inside," said Abdikarin Sharif, a witness who was close to the gun battle on the usually busy Maka Al-Mukarama road, one of the seaside capital's main highways.

"There were blasts and sporadic heavy gunfire inside the building, the whole area is cordoned off," Sharif added.

Medics said they had pulled out five dead bodies from the wreckage of the bomb blast, which exploded into a fireball and smashed off the front of nearby buildings.

Abdukadir Abdirahman, director of the Aamin Ambulance service, said that at least 60 people had been wounded.

Al-Shabaab insurgents said a suicide bomber from their group was responsible for the attack, in a bid to kill senior officials staying in the Maka al-Mukarama hotel.

Mogadishu is regularly targeted by the Shabaab fighters in their long fight to topple the government.

Witnesses described how the car bomb blast had ripped through the street. At the time of the attack, in the early evening, the area was filled with people relaxing after a day at work.

"The whole area was in flames," said Abdisamed Mohamed, a witness describing the aftermath of the car bomb. "There was gunfire too."

Shabaab fighters fled the fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.

But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.