Suicide attackers struck a popular hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu early Sunday, leaving 15 people dead, officials and witnesses said.
The fatalities reportedly included politicians, businessmen, other civilians and members of the security forces.
The death toll also includes the six attackers, senior security official Mohamed Hassan said.
The members of the Islamist group al-Shabaab arrived outside Hotel Sahafi in two vehicles packed with explosives, police representative Abdi Hassan said.
One of the vehicles rammed into a security wall and exploded, killing one of the attackers and several security guards.
The other attackers, dressed in Somali military uniforms, then stormed the hotel, police and witnesses said.
While a gun battle was raging inside the hotel, the other explosives-packed vehicle was blown up by remote control in a parking lot.
The militants also launched hand grenades from the roof of the hotel towards security forces surrounding it.
Witness Abdullahi Ali said he saw militants chasing hotel guests and smashing room doors.
Fatalities included the hotel owner, who was also a politician; a former army chief of operations; a legislator; two press photographers; and at least three soldiers, according to witnesses. The blasts also hit a minibus, some passengers of which were thought to have been killed or injured.
Medical officials estimated that a total of about 20 people had been injured in the attack.
Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Maareeye told state-run Radio Mogadishu that security forces had taken the hotel. “Our brave troops are carrying out a final clearing operation in and outside the hotel,” he said. “We have almost finished the siege.”
The African Union mission to Somalia tweeted that AU and government forces had “taken control” of the hotel.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab told pro-insurgent radio Andalus that the group had killed “many enemies in and around the hotel.”
The explosions damaged business premises near Sahafi, a hotel popular among politicians and the business community, which is located in the heart of the city.
Security forces blocked all roads leading to the hotel.