A suicide car bomber crashed his vehicle into a gate outside a hotel in the Somali capital, and the attack was followed by gunfire, killing at least 10 people, police said.
Al-Shabab fighters claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack targeting Mogadishu’s Ambassador Hotel, which is frequented by diplomats, government officials and Somalis visiting from abroad.
“We attacked the hotel with a car bomb and we went inside. We shall give details later,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
As of 17:00 GMT on Wednesday, authorities told Al Jazeera that special forces have taken control of the hotel compound, and rescued many people inside the hotel.
Mogadishu police said some fighters had apparently burst into the hotel.
The attack happened shortly before the arrival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Mogadishu.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya, said Ambassador Hotel is located along the road Erdogan “was supposed to take from the airport to the presidential palace”.
Adow also reported that the attack “has the signature of al-Shabab”, adding that it was not the first time the hotel was targeted.
“They want to send a message that although they might have lost control of the city, they can still carry out such attacks with audacity,” he said.
In February, at least nine people were killed when al-Shabab fighters set off a car bomb at the gate of a popular park near a hotel in the capital.
In January, an attack on a beach-front restaurant killed at least 17 people.
In recent attacks, the armed group is also taking civilians as “legitimate targets”, Al Jazeera’s Adow said.
Al-Shabab, which seeks to topple Somalia’s government, was driven out of Mogadishu by the African Union force AMISOM in 2011, and last year was ousted from strongholds elsewhere in the south by AMISOM and the Somali National Army.