18 dead, more than 30 wounded in Mogadishu hotel blast
A suicide car bomb exploded outside a popular hotel in Somalia's capital yesterday, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 30, and gunfire continued as security forces pursued the attackers inside the building.
Two more blasts were heard, one when an attacker detonated a suicide vest.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, a police captain said that more than 20 people, including government officials, were thought to be trapped as security forces battled extremists holed up on the top floor of the Nasa-Hablod hotel, close to the presidential palace.
Two of the five attackers were killed on the first floor, the captain said. The others hurled grenades and cut off the building's electricity as night fell.
Yesterday's blasts came two weeks after more than 350 people were killed in a massive truck bombing on a busy Mogadishu street in the country's worst-ever attack.
Al-Shabab, Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, quickly claimed responsibility for yesterday's attack and said its fighters were inside the hotel. As night fell, sporadic gunfire could be heard as soldiers responded.
The group often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu. It has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago. Experts have said the death toll was so high that the group hesitated to further anger Somali citizens as it pursues its insurgency.
Since the blast two weeks ago, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has visited regional countries to seek more support for the fight against the extremist group, vowing a "state of war".