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Shabaab claims deadly car bombing on Mogadishu hotel

Earlier, on the same day, Somali security forces said they killed the head of militant group al-Shabaab's intelligence unit

Published: Updated:

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab on Wednesday launched a deadly attack on a top Mogadishu hotel popular with MPs, setting off a car bomb and fighting security forces inside the complex, the jihadists and security sources said.

“The attack was started with a heavy explosion and members from the Mujahedeen fighters stormed the building,” the Shabaab said in a statement.

The explosion at the Ambassador Hotel on a busy road in the heart of the city was followed by a “complex attack,” a security source told AFP.

“A VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) exploded at the Ambassador Hotel, Makkah Almukarramah street,” the source said.

“According to latest information received there was a follow-up complex attack and the hotel was penetrated and an ongoing fire fight is in progress,” the security source added.

Somali security official Abdirasak Ahmed said there was “one civilian casualty” but witnesses said many people had died.

“I was a few meters away from the hotel when the blast occurred. It was very heavy one and it destroyed the whole area. I saw the dead bodies of seven people most of them burned,” Mohamed Elmi said.

Another witness, Ibrahim Sheikh Nur, added: “I saw several dead bodies outside the hotel but we don't know how many people are inside and the casualties there. The security forces are now inside and the whole area is cordoned off.”

Shabaab fighters were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 but the group remains a dangerous threat in both Somalia and neighboring Kenya, where it carries out frequent attacks.

They jihadists are fighting to overthrow the country's internationally-backed government.

On Wednesday, the United States said a top Shabaab military leader Abdullahi Haji Da’ud was "presumed killed" during a May 27 air strike.