Jihadist militants on Tuesday night stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, killing five people including three civilians.
The SYL hotel where the incident took place is popular with politicians, army officers and diplomats. It is close to the main entrance of the Villa Somalia government complex, a high-security area that includes the presidential palace, the prime minister’s office and ministry buildings.
Some eyewitnesses said the assailants were able to approach the hotel without arousing suspicion because they were dressed in police uniform.
They then opened fire and threw grenades, triggering an armed response from security forces guarding checkpoints leading to the nearby presidential palace.
“Our brave security forces ended the terror attack on SYL hotel rescuing more than 80 people” including government officials and hotel guests, police said in a statement.
“The number of the dead we have confirmed is five, among them two members of the security forces and three civilians. Nine other civilians and two soldiers were also wounded slightly”.
The police statement said the attack was carried out “by five people who have been sent by the terrorists to threaten the Somali public and all of them were killed”.
A large number of hotel guests were quickly evacuated by police through the hotel’s service doors and emergency exits.
Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement online, saying it had carried out an operation “which happened as planned”, but gave no further details.
Al-Shabaab – allied to Al-Qaeda – was forced out of the Somali capital in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and continues to launch attacks in Mogadishu.
The group often strikes the most prominent hotels and restaurants and has also staged attacks in neighbouring Kenya.