By Abdulaziz Osman
A car bomb exploded near a popular hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Sunday. The explosion was followed by a shootout between militants and police.
Militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Witnesses say the massive blast occurred Sunday near Hotel Afrik, located in the vicinity of a busy security checkpoint en route to the Mogadishu airport.
Police say al-Shabab members stormed the hotel and many of the people inside were rescued, including Somalia’s former state minister for defense, Yusuf Siad Indha-Adde.
A VOA reporter, Abdikafi Yusuf Aden, was also inside the hotel at the time and survived.
“There was confusion and thick smoke rose up after the blast occurred. People were jumping down over the wall as we ran for our lives,” Aden told VOA Somali.
Aden said he saw at least three people injured where he was hiding, but was unable to confirm what happened outside or on the other side of the hotel.
VOA reporters in Mogadishu said dozens of people were still trapped inside as night fell and security forces engaged attackers in an operation to end the siege.