Shabab Gunmen Storm Somalia Hotel, Trapping Government Officials

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.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but security forces rescued dozens of civilians and officials, including the fisheries minister, from the hotel, the Villa Rose. 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 morning, the scale of the latest attack remained unclear. The police had yet to release any information about casualties, although several people wrote on Facebook that family members had been killed.

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.

Adam Aw Hirsi, the state minister for the environment, wrote on Twitter that he was safe after a “terrorist explosion targeted” his residence at the hotel, where many government officials are known to stay.

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.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Nairobi, Kenya.

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