The Al-Qaeda linked Shebab claimed responsibility in the Sahafi resort, which can be popular with members of parliament, government businessmen and workers for the dawn attack.
Following the car bomb ripped a hole in the fortified walls of the resort, gunmen then stormed the building fire semi-automatic rifles, with the sounds of grenade blasts, witnesses said.
“This is the action of an increasingly desperate, internally-divided group of extremists,”
Although special forces appeared to be carrying out mopping up operations for sometime afterwards, the National and Intelligence Agency in Somalia declared the attack over several hours after shooting started.
The African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM, a 22,000 -strong force fighting the Shebab, said they fought alongside government troops and had secured the resort. “Attackers exploded a car bomb to get entrance before going indoors… we have reports of 12 dead,” officer Abdulrahid Dahir said. One of the dead are reported to be a Somali journalist, co-workers said, as well as a former senior army commander.
Witnesses said they’d seen several bodies of individuals killed in the initial blast, when a minibus packed with explosives was allegedly used to ram the gates of the hotel’s fortified compound, that was followed by a second significant explosion.
Shebab commandos subsequently stormed indoors, with witnesses reporting lots of loud blasts and extreme gunfire.
“There was a huge explosion and people around the entrance were killed,” said Mohamed Ismael, a witness, who had been nearby when the assault started.
Like other international resorts in Mogadishu, the Sahafi is greatly fortified.
It was the site of the kidnapping of two French security representatives in 2009, one of whom after escaped while the other was killed by the Shebab during a failed rescue effort in 2013.
Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab asserted the resort, which can be situated near the major K4 roundabout had been overrun by the gunmen.
“The mujahedeen fighters took control of the Sahafi hotel, where apostates and invading Christians were staying,” he said in a statement.
Shebab assaults seek to counter claims that they are close to defeat after losing routine US drone strikes against their leaders, also as territory.
The militants have carried out a chain of reprisal strikes in neighbouring states.
This week, President Mohamud called on Shebab fighters to surrender amid reports some factions might have changed allegiance from Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State group.
Mohamud said the reported divisions were “symptomatic of a group that has lost its way”, and warned that Somalis “don’t want a brand new brand of dread and repression”.