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Several dead as al Shabab attacks hotel in Somalia

Al Shabab militants have attacked a hotel in the capital of the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia killing six. It's the latest in a series of attacks against state officials, security forces and civilians.

Several assailants reportedly attempted to storm the International Village Hotel in the capital of Puntland, Bosasso, on Wednesday morning and engaged in a gun fight with hotel guards. 

"Three al Shabab fighters stormed the hotel this morning," Yusuf Mohamed, the governor of the Bari region of Puntland, told news agency Reuters.

Four guards and two of the attackers died in the fighting, he said.

Bosasso - which is popular with foreigners - sits on the northern coast of the semi-autonomous Puntland region, of which Bari is a part. Al Shabab and so-called Islamic State (IS) militants have increased their attacks in the Puntland region since the end of last year.

"Fortunately, the attackers did not enter the rooms. The fighting took place inside the compound. A third fighter escaped and we are pursuing him. All the people in the hotel are safe," Mohamed said.

Witnesses told the Somali website Garowe Online that officials from Dubai Port World (DP) were present in the hotel at the time but weren't injured in the clash.

Somalia's semi-autonomious region of Puntland

Somalia's semi-autonomious region of Puntland

Puntland being drawn into conflict

Puntland has been relatively stable compared to the rest of Somalia but attacks by terrorist groups have started to pose risks to the stability of the region.

Residents in the region told reporters last week for example that they had found three headless bodies, days after reportedly IS-linked fighters had abducted nine people.

Until 2011, the al Qaeda-linked al Shabab controlled most of Somalia including the capital, Mogadishu, but since 2015 African Union and Somali government forces have forced it out of key urban strongholds.

Al Shabab aims to overthrow the Western-backed government and impose its own strict interpretation of sharia - Islamic law - on the nation.

Somalia's parliamentarians are due to elect a president later on Wednesday in Mogadishu.

jbh/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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