Militants from the Islamist al-Shabab group have attacked a hotel near the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, security sources and witnesses said.

The group has attacked the Syl Hotel before, which is popular with government officials.

Witnesses reported blasts and gunfire coming from the hotel, telling Reuters that fighters were still inside.

It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.

“The armed Mujahideen control the hotel and are shooting workers and officers” of the government in the hotel, al-Shabab said in a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

Resident Farah Ali, who lives near the president’s office, told Reuters: “We first heard a huge blast, and then gunfire followed. We understand the fighters are inside [the hotel] for we hear exchange of gunfire.”

“Several gunmen forced their way into the building after destroying the perimeter wall with a heavy explosion,” a security officer told AFP.

Hassan Nur, who escaped by scaling a wall, said: “I don’t know about the casualties but there were many people inside when the attack started.”

Other witnesses reported seeing police arriving within minutes of the attack, which triggered a gun battle with militants.

Attacks had reduced in recent weeks amid heightened security after the government intensified its military offensive against the Islamist group.

Al-Shabab controls large parts of southern and central Somalia.

The group is affiliated to al-Qaeda and has waged a brutal insurgency for nearly 20 years against the UN-backed government in Somalia.

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Thursday met defence officials to plan how to reclaim lost territory, Somalia’s national news agency Sonna reported.

It is a proscribed terrorist group by countries including the UK and US. The US has intervened militarily to fight against the group.

Its fighters are known for targeting hotels, including the Syl Hotel in 2019.

In 2022, the group stormed the Villa Rays hotel in the capital, killing at least 14 people.

Three years before the storming of the Villa Rays hotel, at least 26 people, including a prominent journalist and several foreigners, were killed in an attack on the Asasey hotel in the port of Kismayo, southern Somalia.



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