A car laden with explosives rammed the gate of a hotel in the centre of Somalia’s port city of Kismayo and was followed by a gun battle that killed at least three people.
Security forces were dealing with a “terrorist incident” at the hotel, the state-run Somali National Television reported on Sunday.
“There is a blast at Tawakal Hotel and there is gunfire being heard,” said Mohamed Nur, a police captain.
Farah Mohamed, a security official, said in addition to three deaths eight people were wounded and taken to Kismayo hospital. Witnesses said a huge blast was heard before a gun battle began.
“The security forces have besieged the scene,” said Farah Ali, a shopkeeper in Kismayo.
The armed group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the capital Mogadishu, journalist Jama Nur Ahmed quoted an official as saying an “exchange of fire” was still ongoing between security forces and the assailants.
Mohamed Nasi Guled, a senior police official in Jubaland state, said three attackers entered the hotel’s premises. He vowed security forces would end the attack. The hotel is popular as a meeting place for government officials.
Kismayo is the commercial capital of Jubbaland, a region of southern Somalia still partly controlled by al-Shabab, which was driven out of the urban centre in 2012.
The city’s port had been a major source of revenue for the group from taxes, charcoal exports, and levies on arms and other illegal imports.
In 2019, a similar attack at another hotel in Kismayo killed 26 people.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, has pledged to defeat al-Shabab after numerous deadly attacks.
The armed group was driven out of Mogadishu by African Union forces in 2011. However, it still controls swaths of the countryside.
Thousands of Somalis have been killed in a decade-long rebellion.
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