Casualties feared as Shabaab attack popular Mogadishu hotel

2015-02-20 21:58
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Mogadishu - Somalia's Shabaab insurgents said they carried out an attack on Friday on a hotel in the capital Mogadishu with government ministers reportedly inside, killing or wounding dozens of people.

Twin explosions followed by heavy gunfire were heard from the Central Hotel, said Mohamed Kediye, a police officer at the scene.

The hotel is close to the presidential palace and is popular with members of parliament and senior officials.

"They were two explosions, there was gunfire and there are casualties," Kediye said.

Government ministers and members of parliament were inside the hotel when the attackers struck, a Western security source said.

There are believed to be dozens of victims, either wounded or killed.

Complex attack

"The situation is very serious," the Western source said.

"Our fighters attacked the Central Hotel... the aim is to kill the apostate officials," Shabaab spokesperson  Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP.

Kediye said initial reports suggested a complex attack spearheaded by a car bomb and a suicide bomber followed by gunmen who stormed the hotel building from where gunfire could be heard.

Thick clouds of black smoke were seen pouring from the hotel.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab rebels have staged a string of similar attacks in their fight to overthrow the country's internationally-backed government.

The extremists say they are targeting MPs for permitting the deployment of foreign African Union troops on Somali soil.

Shabaab attacks in Somalia have targeted key government and security sites in a bid to discredit claims by the authorities and AU troops that they are winning the war.

Friday's attack comes a month after a Shabaab suicide bomber exploded a car at the nearby SYL hotel, the day before a planned visit by Turkey's president.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  al-qaeda  |  somalia  |  east africa

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