At least 15 killed in hotel siege in Somali capital

A suicide car blast and a siege of a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, carried out by Al-Shabaab Islamist group has left at least 15 people dead, a police officer said.

“The operation has now ended but we are still combing the building for any possible militants who are hiding,” Major Ali Mohamed said, adding that the death toll included guards, civilians and militants, Reuters reported.

According to an Al-Shabaab spokesman, the number of casualties stands at 30.

The militants have been armed with grenades and were using machine guns shooting back at police officers trying to get access to the second floor of the hotel.

At least two of the attackers have been killed, Hussein said, adding that there were snipers stations on top of the building.

The Nasahablood Hotel, located at the KM4 road area of Mogadishu has been under siege, according to police.

The car explosion was followed by a second blast that took place inside the hotel after the militants began storming the building, Somali police reported, according to AP.

"They started with a suicide bomb and then stormed in. Now they are inside and the heavy exchange of gunfire continues," Major Nur Farah told Reuters.

Somalian security forces have been battling the attackers, who “took positions behind blast walls and sandbags; fighting is still ongoing,” Hussein added.

As many as 11 people mostly “wounded in cross-fire” were evacuated and taken to hospitals, an ambulance driver, Yusuf Ali, said.

The hotel was targeted since it is often visited by various official figures described as “apostate” by Al-Shabaab’s military operation spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab.

The attackers shot at the hotel guests, witness Ali Mohamud said, according to AP.

They were shooting at everyone they could see. I escaped through the back door,” he said.

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on the Mogadishu hotel, according to police.

The Islamist group is known for carrying out frequent attacks in the capital in an effort to overrun the current government.

The United States, which provides support to Somalia's government, was quick to respond to the assault.

"We strongly condemn this attack. We remain committed to Somalia's security and stability, and are proud to stand side-by-side with Somalia in the fight against terrorism," a US State Department statement said.