URGENT: Five dead in attack on Mogadishu hotel

Witnesses confirmed that the attack began with a heavy explosion and reported that people were running from the area as gunfire could be heard from the hotel, which is frequented by government officials.

Picture: AFP

MOGADISHU - At least five people were killed Sunday when gunmen stormed an upscale beachfront hotel in Somalia's capital following a car bomb blast outside, in an attack reminiscent of others carried out by Al-Shabaab militants, a government security official told AFP.

"There was a car bomb blast targeting Elite Hotel at Lido beach. There is heavy gunfire in the building," said Adan Ibrahim, a police officer in the area.

Witnesses confirmed that the attack began with a heavy explosion and reported that people were running from the area as gunfire could be heard from the hotel, which is frequented by government officials.

"The blast was very heavy and I could see smoke in the area. There is chaos and people are fleeing from nearby buildings," said witness Ali Sayid Adan.

Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of then-President Siad Barre's military regime, leading to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabaab which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab were driven out of the capital in 2011, but its militants continue to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.

Last week four Shabaab fighters held in Mogadishu's central prison were killed in an intense shootout with security forces after they somehow managed to get their hands on weapons within the facility.

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