Car bomb targets hotel in Somali port city

Militant group al Shabaab claim responsiblity for the attack

Members of al Qaeda-linked militant group al Shabab listen to a Somalia government soldier as they are paraded at Maslah square after their surrender to the authorities in the north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu September 24, 2012. More than 200 members of the militant group surrendered to African Union and Somalia government soldiers on Saturday. The move will likely bolster government and Africa Union preparations for an onslaught on the southern city of Kismayu - currently the last bastion of the militant group. REUTERS/Omar Faruk (SOMALIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - GM1E89P00FP01
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A car bomb attack claimed by militant group Al Shabaab went off outside a hotel in Somalia’s port city of Kismayu on Friday.

According to local police, local lawmakers had convened to discuss an upcoming regional election before gunfire was heard from the hotel.

According to Reuters, one police officer said gunfire had eventually stopped an hour and a half after the explosion and believe militants are “still in the building”.

“We have not confirmed the death toll, but there were many people inside, and there may be a high death toll," police captain Abdullahi Isak told Reuters.

Al Shabab’s military operation spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed responsibility for the attack.

"First we targeted (the hotel) with a suicide car bomb and then armed mujahideen (guerrilla fighters) stormed the hotel. We are still fighting inside the hotel," he said.

"There are many dead bodies inside the hotel, including a dead white man. We control the hotel now."

The militant group is trying to oust Somalia’s government. The group was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds.

Al Shabaab was driven out of Kismayu in 2012. Taxes from charcoal exports and levies on other imports provide a major source of revenue for the city.

Kismayu is the commercial capital of Jubbaland, a region of southern Somalia still partly controlled by al Shabaab.

Agencies contributed to this story