Somalia security forces are trying to neutralize al-Shabab militants who attacked a beachfront hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening.
Witnesses told VOA’s Somali Service that the assault began with at least two explosions outside the Pearl Beach Hotel, followed by gunmen storming the hotel.
Gunfire was heard with an unknown number of people trapped inside the building, witnesses said, while others escaped through the back doors and windows.
“Special elite forces gained access to the entry into the upper floors of the hotel,” one witness told VOA Somali.
The Al-Shabab group, affiliated with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The mujahedeen managed to enter the Pearl Beach Hotel and are still fully in control,” the group said in a statement.
Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the Aamin ambulance service, told local media that they had received more than six people who were wounded in the attack.
The hotel at the center of the attack is near Lido Beach, a popular destination for politicians and members of the Somali diaspora visiting the capital.
This incident occurred during a period of relative calm for Mogadishu after the government in mid-April deployed newly trained military police in and around the city. However, violence by the group has wreaked havoc in other parts of the country.
In a separate incident on Friday, at least 27 people including children were killed and more than 50 were injured in a massive blast from unexploded ordnance in the village of Muraale, located between Qoryooley and Jannaale districts.
“Some individuals had retrieved unexploded explosives from a nearby field and used it for fire to cook food, but tragically, the device exploded, resulting in the deaths of 27 people, including children, mother, father and youths,” Abdirahman Yusuf Abdinur, the mayor of Jannaale, told Somalia's state media agency.
Earlier on Friday, Somalia announced its readiness to take over security responsibilities from the African Union peacekeeping mission in the country, with 2,000 AU troops set to leave Somalia by the end of June, in line with U.N. Security Council Resolutions 2628 and 2670.
Somalia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that it had recruited enough forces who will assume control of the security responsibilities currently handled by the AU troops.
The AU peace mission is expected to fully exit Somalia by December 31, 2024.
This story originated in VOA’s Somali Service.