Seven people have been killed in an attack on a hotel popular with government officials in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
The African Union mission to Somalia, AMISOM, confirmed to Al Jazeera that there had been an explosion followed by gunfire at the Makka al-Mukarama hotel on Friday.
An AMISOM spokesman said al-Shabab fighters got out of a car that then exploded. The armed men then entered the hotel and gunfire was heard. The fighters took hostages, the spokesman added.
Mustaf Abdi Nor Shafana, taking photos for Al Jazeera at the scene, said he saw seven bodies, including three dead government soldiers.
Somalia’s ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Mohamed Baribari, was also killed in the attack, medical sources told Al Jazeera.The same hotel was attacked by the al-Shabab group in November 2013.
Police told Reuters that government officials were trapped inside the hotel and that officers had surrounded the complex.
“The hotel is now fully under the control of the militants,” Major Ismail Olow, a Mogadishu police officer at the scene, told Reuters. “Al-Shabab fighters are on the top of the building and inside the hotel. It is not easy for us to go in.”
Al-Shabab issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack.
“We are behind the Hotel Makka al-Mukarama attack, and fighting is still going on inside,” the group’s military spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters.