Somalia’s al-Shabab armed group launched a car bomb attack on Sunday on a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least nine people, a police spokesman said.
“The operation is over now. Nine people including four attackers died and over 10 civilians were injured. There is no electricity,” Sadik Ali, told reporters from the scene and via Facebook.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said in a statement that among those killed was a former military general, Mohamed Nur Galal.
“I condemn the barbaric attack. May Allah have mercy on all those who died. General Mohamed Nur Galal, will be remembered for his over 50 year role in defending the country,” he said.
A vehicle loaded with explosives crashed into the entrance gate of the Afrik hotel, near Mogadishu’s strategic K-4 junction, police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali had confirmed earlier.
A number of gunmen then quickly invaded the hotel, opening fire on staff and patrons inside, he said.
“The blast shook us and heavy gunfire followed,” said Ali Abdulahi, a shopkeeper in the area.
Witness Ahmed Nur told Reuters: “The blast made the hotel tremble as we sat inside and were talking. We were panicked, confused,” adding that he escaped via a ladder down a wall. “I jumped down and ran.”
Government forces responded to the attack and gunfire could be heard coming from the hotel. Police rescued many people from the hotel, including its owner and an army general, according to The Associated Press news agency.
Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked armed group that seeks to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Andalus radio station.
“We know, they have changed nothing from their usual tactic, ramming explosives into a building and following up, assaulting with rifles,” said Ali, the police spokesman.
Al-Shabab frequently carries out bombings in its war on Somalia’s government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops.
In a separate incident, at least eight children were killed and many others wounded when a bomb went off in the Golweyn area, about 40km (25 miles) north of the coastal town of Merca, some 120km (74 miles) south of Mogadishu.