MOGADISHU, Somalia — Gunmen wearing suicide vests and believed to be members of a militant group attacked a hotel popular with government officials in the capital of Somalia on Sunday, according to the police.
At least six people have been killed, according to Somalia’s environment minister, who was among dozens of civilians who fled or were rescued by security forces from the hotel, the Villa Rosa, in the early hours of the assault. Others remained trapped inside.
The militant group, Al Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack in the capital, Mogadishu. The group also said its fighters were conducting an assault on Somalia’s presidential palace, which is near the hotel.
On Monday morning, security forces were still battling the militants, with gunfire and at least one loud explosion heard. Somali troops from a C.I.A.-trained paramilitary unit known as Gaashaan and a Turkish-trained unit known as Haramad led efforts to flush the militants from the besieged hotel.
As the Somali government has stepped up military operations against Al Shabab in recent months, the militants have escalated their bombing campaign in Mogadishu. Suicide bombers and gunmen have frequently targeted hotels, especially those popular with government officials.
At least 21 people were killed and more than 100 wounded during a 30-hour siege on the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu in August — the largest such assault since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in May.
That siege was followed by Al Shabab’s deadliest attack in five years, on Oct. 29, when two car bombs killed at least 100 people and wounded more than 300 outside the Ministry of Education.
On Monday afternoon, the scale of the latest attack remained unclear. The police had not released any information about casualties, although several people wrote on Facebook that family members had been killed.
Adam Aw Hirsi, the state minister for the environment, told Al Jazeera television that he escaped the hotel through a back door when gunfire and explosions rang out after evening prayers at 7.30pm. Between six and eight bodies lay inside the hotel, he said.
On Monday morning, 16 hours into the siege, bursts of gunfire could be heard in surrounding streets, coming from the direction of the hotel. At the nearby National Theater, a graduation ceremony for a private university went ahead as planned.
Some government officials were rescued after escaping through windows, the police told reporters on Sunday. Among those rescued was the country’s minister of fisheries, Abdilahi Bidhan Warsame, and a senator, Dunia Mohamed.
Local news reports said that the internal security minister, Mohamed Doodishe, had been injured after jumping from a window to escape the attackers. The reports could not be independently verified.
On Friday, Shabab militants attacked a military base in the village of Qayib, in the central Galgaduud region, a government minister told reporters, prompting violent clashes as the army tried to repel them.
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