Mogadishu // Twenty-eight people were killed on Wednesday when Al Shabab fighters attacked a popular Mogadishu hotel with two car bombs, then opened fire on security guards.
The attack began when a car loaded with explosives rammed the gate of the Dayah Hotel, near the Somali parliament and state house.
Security sources said at least four gunmen then entered the compound and exchanged fire with security guards, but they were shot dead before reaching the main building where guests were staying.
A second massive blast went off after ambulances and people had already rushed to the scene, leaving seven with minor injuries.
Dr Abukadir Adem, head of the ambulance service, said 28 people had been killed, excluding the four gunmen, and 43 wounded.
“We commend the security guards of the hotel who fiercely fought the Shabab attackers,” said Somalia’s minister of security, Abdirisak Mohamed.
Police spokesman Ibrahim Mohammed said the gunmen stormed the hotel as civilians and rescue workers carried away people who were injured in the blasts.
The bombs caused extensive damage to the area.
Al Shabab is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government of Somalia and regularly stages deadly attacks on state, military
and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere in the country.
In December, more than 20 people were killed when a lorry laden with explosives was detonated near a military base close to the Mogadishu port.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of president Siad Barre’s military regime.
That event began decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines. The divisions allowed Al Shabab to take hold and seize territory, frustrating efforts to set up a central administration.
After a series of transitional governments were formed abroad, a previous parliament was chosen by 135 clan elders and set up in Mogadishu in 2012.
Somalis were promised a one-person, one-vote election last year. But political infighting, and insecurity caused by Al Shabab, resulted in 14,025 delegates voting for 275 parliamentary seats that were distributed according to clan.
Another 72 seats in a new upper house were shared out according to region.
The newly elected politicians were to vote for a new president but the election has been delayed several times and there has been no new date set.
* Agence France-Presse