An explosion was heard outside the Elite Hotel in Lido Beach in the Somalia capital Mogadishu, police spokesman Sadik Ali confirmed to Reuters. Gunmen then stormed the building frequented by government officials, government workers and people from the diaspora.
At least five people have died, a government security official called Ahmed Omar told AFP news agency. He did not clarify whether they were killed by bullets or the blast.
At least 28 people were injured in the explosion, Aamin ambulance service head Abdikadir Abdirahman told Reuters.
“There are deaths and injuries of civilians who were passing near the hotel and others who were inside the hotel. Among the dead is one director of the information ministry,” state news agency SONNA said, citing information ministry spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar.
Paramedics and civilians carry an injured person on a stretcher at Madina hospital after a blast at the Elite Hotel in Lido beach in Mogadishu, Somalia August 16, 2020. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)
“The death toll can increase because the blast was massive and there is a hostage situation involved,” Ahmed Omar said, adding that the attack resembled those carried out by Al-Shabaab militants.
A police officer named Adan Ibrahim told AFP that a “car bomb” caused the explosion and “heavy gunfire” was heard from inside the hotel. The government was sending security forces to Lido Beach.
“The exchange of gunfire is terrible and stray bullets reached us near the beach,” Mohamed Nur, a government worker, told Reuters.
Violence has engulfed Somalia since 1991, when clan warlords staged a military coup and overthrew Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre before betraying one another.
Since 2008, al-Shabaab militants have attempted to overthrow the internationally recognized central government in Somalia. Designated a terrorism organization by the U.S. and the U.K., al-Shabaab imposes a strict version of the Islamic Sharia law in regions under its rule that involves the stoning to death of women accused of adultery and amputating thieves’ hands, the BBC reported in 2017.