At least 12 people have been killed in an attack by Islamic militants who stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
Several people were also injured and others, including children, had to be rescued by security services from Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel.
Most of those who died are reported to have been civilians.
The attack started with two car bomb blasts, followed by gunfire at around 4pm local time (6pm UK time) on Friday.
One ambulance service said it had taken nine injured people away from the hotel, large sections of which are said to have been destroyed.
Gunfire was still being heard early on Saturday as security forces tried to contain the last militants, who were thought to be in the hotel.
It was not known how many remained, after they were thought to be holed up on the hotel’s top floor.
Eyewitness Abdullahi Hussein told AP: “We were having tea near the hotel lobby when we heard the first blast followed by gunfire. I immediately rushed toward hotel rooms on the ground floor, and I locked (it).
“The militants went straight upstairs and started shooting. I was inside the room until the security forces arrived and rescued me.”
He said that as he was making his way out of the complex he saw “several bodies lying on the ground outside hotel reception”.
The terror group has been fighting to remove the Somali government for more than 10 years, with the aim of establishing a state run on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The Hayat Hotel is popular with politicians and other government officials.
According to the state-run Somali National News Agency, police were conducting an operation aimed at stopping the attack, at the time it happened.
The agency said: “The unsung heroes of Somali Police Special Unit have rescued many people from Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu as the security forces are dealing with terrorist incident.”
Friday’s attack is the first since new Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.
In August 2020, al Shabaab said it was behind an attack on another hotel in Mogadishu in which at least 16 people were killed.