MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Gunmen stormed a hotel in the center of the Somali port city of Kismayo on Sunday, shortly after a car full of explosives exploded outside the hotel’s gates, police said.
Officials said gunmen were still at the Tawakal Hotel and security forces were on the scene. The Islamist extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack began when a car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into the hotel’s entrance gate and then exploded, police officer Abshir Omar told The Associated Press by phone. A number of small businesses along the street were destroyed.
Some government officials and traditional elders were having lunch at the hotel at the time of the explosion, he said.
Nothing was immediately known about victims.
Mohamed Nasi Guled, a senior police officer in Jubaland state, said three assailants broke into the hotel building. He vowed that security forces would end the attack.
The hotel is popular as a meeting place for government officials. Kismayo is located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Al-Shabab is believed to have a strong presence in the areas around Kismayo, the largest city and commercial capital of Jubaland state.
Al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, regularly carries out attacks in the Horn of Africa.
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