25 killed in attack on hotel in Somali capital (VIDEO, PHOTO)

At least 25 people have been killed and more than 30 injured in a suicide car bomb attack on a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, according to police. The attack was followed by gunfire, with two more blasts reportedly being heard in the area later.

The assailants targeted the popular Nasa-Hablod hotel located near the presidential palace and frequented by Somalia’s politicians and local elites. Al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that its fighters are still inside the hotel.

A local police officer, captain Mohamed Hussein, told AP that fighting is underway in the building as security forces continue to battle the extremists holed up on the top floor of the hotel. He added that three of the five assailants had been killed by Saturday night.

Hussein said up to 20 people are believed to be trapped in the building as the security operation continues. The officer added that a senior police official, as well as a former government minister and a former lawmaker were also killed in the attack.

At least three armed men in military uniforms rushed towards the hotel immediately after the blast at its gates, a witness who survived the explosion told AP, adding that he believes they were Al-Shabab fighters who stormed the building.

The attack came two weeks after Somalia’s deadliest attack in a decade, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people. On October 14, two car bomb explosions rocked Somalia’s capital. The first and the most devastating explosion took place near the Safari Hotel located close to the foreign ministry in the busy city center. No group has claimed responsibility for that attack.

Al-Shabaab Islamist group has staged regular attacks on Mogadishu since 2011 when it was pushed out of the city it controlled since 2006 by the African Union (AU) and Somali forces. The extremists also repeatedly targeted army bases and communities across the southern and central parts of Somalia.