By:Horndiplomat and Agencies
At least 15 people have been killed after al-Shabab militants stormed a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Friday night.
Police said attackers detonated two explosives outside the hotel before entering the building and opening fire.
Continued gunfire and explosions were reported on Saturday as security forces battled an unknown number of gunmen still inside holding hostages.
Dozens of guests and staff members have been rescued.
Earlier, a website affiliated to al-Shabab said a group of militants had “forcibly entered” the hotel and were “carrying out random shooting”.
The Hayat is described as a popular location for employees of the federal government to meet.
Nine people were injured and carried away from the hotel, the head of Mogadishu’s Aamin ambulance services, Abdikadir Abdirahman told Reuters earlier.
The director of Mogadishu’s main trauma hospital, Dr Mohamed Abdirahman Jama, later told news agency AFP the facility was treating at least 40 people wounded in the hotel attack and a separate mortar strike on another area of the capital.
Unverified images circulating on social media appeared to show smoke billowing from the hotel while shouting and loud bangs can be heard.
In a statement a police officer told Reuters the initial attack on the hotel had been two car bombs.
“One hit a barrier near the hotel, and then the other hit the gate of the hotel,” he said.
An affiliate of al-Qaeda, al-Shabab has engaged in a long-running conflict with the federal government.
The group controls much of southern and central Somalia but has been able to extend its influence into areas controlled by the government based in Mogadishu.
In recent weeks fighters affiliated with the group have also attacked targets along the Somalia-Ethiopia border, which has raised concerns about a possible new strategy by al-Shabab.
The attack on Friday marks the first in the capital by the group since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May.