Al-Shabaab militants attacked a hotel near the presidential palace in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday, police and witnesses said, with explosions and gunfire heard in the city centre.
"A team of Al-Shabaab fighters attacked a commercial hotel in Bondhere district tonight (and) the security forces are engaging in an effort to eliminate them," national police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said in statement.
He said many civilians and officials had been rescued from the Villa Rose hotel, a popular establishment with lawmakers in a secure central area of the capital close to the office of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Witnesses described hearing loud explosions followed by gunfire.
"I was close to Villa Rose when two heavy explosions rocked the hotel. There was heavy gunfire. The area was cordoned off and I saw people fleeing," said Aadan Hussein, a witness in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that has been trying to overthrow Somalia's central government in Mogadishu for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack.