A suicide truck bomb exploded outside a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital on Saturday, killing at least 23 people and wounding more than 30, and gunfire continued as security forces pursued other attackers inside the building, police said. Two more blasts were heard, one when an attacker detonated a suicide vest.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, Capt. Mohamed Hussein said 30 people, including a government minister, were rescued from the Nasa-Hablod hotel as heavy gunfire continued in the standoff between extremists and security forces.
Three of the five attackers were killed, Hussein said. The others hurled grenades and cut off the building’s electricity as night fell.
Ali Nur, a police officer, told Reuters 17 people, mostly policemen, had died in the blasts.
“Security forces have entered a small portion of the hotel building ... the exchange of gunfire is hellish,” he said.
The police personnel who died had been stationed close to hotel’s gate. The dead also included a former lawmaker, he said.
Fighting continued to rage inside the hotel and police said the death toll was likely to rise.
Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Amin ambulances, told Reuters the emergency service had carried 17 people injured from the hotel blast.
A huge cloud of smoke rose over the scene and a Reuters witness saw over a dozen wrecked cars and bloodstains in front of the hotel. Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the vicinity.
Al-Shabaab, responsible for scores of such attacks in the country’s long civil war, said it carried out Saturday’s bombings.
“We targeted ministers and security officials who were inside the hotel. We are fighting inside,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
He said the hotel belonged to Somalia’s internal security minister, Mohamed Abukar Islow.
(With AP, Reuters)