The attack began when a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at a rear gate of the Maka al-Mukarama Hotel, which is popular with government officials and foreigners, around 4 p.m., witnesses said. Gunmen quickly overpowered security guards and took control of the hotel before an elite police antiterrorism unit stormed the hotel compound and rescued most of the hostages, said Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Security. As of Friday night, it was unclear how many hostages were still trapped inside the hotel.
“The operation still continues,” Mr. Yusuf said. “Most of the hotel complex is under control and people have been rescued, and we will release detailed information once the operation is completed.”
Initial reports said at least seven people had been killed, although the exact number could not be independently verified. It was unclear how many of the dead were civilians and how many were militants. Among the victims was the Somali ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail, who died of wounds sustained in the attack, according to health officials.
“A big explosion erupted at the back door of the hotel,” said one witness, Yasin Mohamed, who was staying near the hotel. He said he heard gunfire inside. “I was shocked and frightened.”
Some of the hotel guests managed to escape before the militants took over, while others jumped out the windows.
“I saw a man jumping out of the window of the second floor and he fell to the ground,” said Abdi Omar, another witness. “He was immediately taken by health workers to the hospital.”
In February, 25 people were killed at the Central Hotel, including government officials, and dozens were wounded, in an attack claimed by the Shabab.