MOGADISHU, Somalia – Terrorists from the Islamist group al-Shabaab have attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia.
The militants set off a car bomb outside the hotel and say they have stormed the building.
“We started with a car bomb and then stormed the hotel,” an Al-Shabaab military operations spokesman said. “We are inside it and fighting continues.”
He said it was the Somali Youth League hotel.
The SYL hotel is locarted across from the presidential palace and is frequented by government officials and business executives.
A police officer said the car bomb struck the gate of a park behind the hotel and most people escaped through another gate.
“I heard an exchange of gunfire around the area. I am not sure whether or not the attackers are in the hotel,” Police Major Ahmad Ismail said.
He did not say if there were any casualties.
Residents reported hearing gunfire following the blast, with a large plume of smoke rising above the city.
A second explosion of a similar magnitude was heard 40 minutes after the first, the BBC reports.
Al-Shabaab often launches attacks in Mogadishu on a Friday – the Somali weekend – when more people visit the city’s hotels and restaurants.