Gunfire heard inside besieged Somalia hotel as security forces battle attackers, and at least five people are dead.
At least 14 people have been killed in fighting outside Mogadishu’s luxury Mogadishu hotel in the early hours of Saturday after more than 400 people were being held hostage by suspected Islamist militants, a Somali military spokesman told the AFP news agency.
“There are casualties among our forces, but we have not received any fatalities as yet,” said Colonel Ali Jama.
The hotel attack was the latest in a string of attacks across Mogadishu this year that have claimed more than 200 lives.
Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda linked group, has waged a war in Somalia for nearly five years, taking territory and forcing residents to live as refugees in camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.
Mogadishu’s main airport, the Hargeisa Airport, was briefly targeted on September 21 by the Islamist group.
The extremist group has also vowed to kill foreign troops and burn the whole city to the ground.
The hotel attack came as more than 2,000 soldiers were battling Al-Shabab in the capital and other parts of the country to take back control of the city.
The soldiers were supported by tanks and fighter jets on the outskirts of the capital, and armoured vehicles at the hotel.
Al-Shabab also said earlier that the hotel attack was revenge for the US airstrike that killed Al-Shabab’s top leader in October.
Al-Shabab in a statement said it was targeting the hotel because the US had killed its leader, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, in a US air strike.
“This hotel is part of the Al-Qaeda forces, which have been attacking the [Somali] people for so many years,” al-Shabab said in a statement carried by the Al-Amaq News Agency.
Earlier this month Al-Shabab had accused the US of bombing a restaurant in Mogadishu that it says serves alcohol and cigarettes, and said the incident was revenge for previous US air strikes.
Mogadishu’s district commissioner Mohamed Hussein told the AP news agency that the hotel attack was revenge for the US strike.
The attackers were believed to be foreigners, with al-Qaeda-linked insurgents demanding $500,000 (320,000 dollars) in ransom from the Somali government, a local security official told the AP.