At least seven people were killed after two car bombs exploded outside a popular Mogadishu hotel Wednesday, and gunmen forced their way inside the building and opened fire, police said.
The attack, claimed by the Al-Qaeda-aligned Shabaab insurgent group, began when a car loaded with explosives rammed the gate of the Dayah Hotel near the Somali parliament and state house.
Gunmen then stormed the hotel and exchanged fire with security guards, according to police official Ibrahim Mohammed.
A second massive blast went off after ambulances and journalists had already rushed to the scene, leaving at least four reporters injured, including an AFP photographer who suffered shrapnel wounds to his shoulder and leg.
AFP images showed security forces and civilians milling about outside the devastated hotel — its windows and doors blown out — after the first explosion, when a second car exploded with a massive blast, sending thick plumes of smoke into the air and sending people fleeing.
Gunfire rang out from the hotel as civilians and rescue workers carried away the injured.
“So far we have counted about seven dead, most of them civilians and security guards. There are also many people who were wounded in the two blasts,” said Mohammed.
“Two gunmen were killed and the area is under control of security forces,” he said.
The Shabaab group claimed responsibility in a statement distributed on its Telegram messaging account.