At least 17 people have been killed after terrorists detonated a car bomb outside a hotel.
A suspected suicide car bomb exploded on Sunday (local time) in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu and was followed by a shootout between militants and security forces at the Afrik hotel.
The militant Islamist group al Shabaab, which is linked to al Qaeda and often carries out bombings in its war on Somalia's government, claimed responsibility via its radio station.
Shopkeeper Ali Abdulahi told Reuters the blast “shook us” and was followed by “heavy gunfire”.
A Reuters journalist saw security forces besiege the area, where cars are inspected en route to the airport and is a popular meeting place for politicians, security forces and ordinary civilians.
Witness Ahmer Nur said he was in the hotel and escaped via a ladder.
"The blast made the hotel tremble as we sat inside and were talking. We were panicked, confused," he said.
"I jumped down and ran."
Police spokesman Sadik Ali said many people had been rescued.
"There must be casualties because the militants first started the attack with a suicide car bomb against the wall," he told Reuters.
"The operation still goes on, casualties will be known later."
It’s believed at this point at least 17 people have died.
Al Shabaab wants to rule Somalia, according to its interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
There was no immediate word from Somali officials or the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission, which supports the government against al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab's radio Al Andalus said fighters had gone into the hotel after a suicide car bomb.
"A martyrdom operation by the mujahideen goes on at Hotel Afrik, which is a cover-up for officials from the apostate government," it said.
Separately, eight children died on Sunday in a town outside of the capital Mogadishu, after a mortar shell they had found exploded, a local official said, adding 11 others were injured.
The children were aged between four to 12, said Osman Nur, chairman of Shalambood, a town 90km from Mogadishu.
with The Associated Press and Reuters
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