Islamist gunmen have attacked a beachside hotel and a restaurant popular with government officials in Somalia's capital. The security forces were battling the assailants at the scene.
At least three people were killed in two suicide bombing in Mogadishu, police and witnesses said on Thursday.
The suspected al-Shabab militants rammed a car bomb into the Beach View Hotel and opened fire on the guests, according to the police representative Ahmed Aloley.
A group of attackers then entered the building, witnesses said.
"After the blast, I saw at least four armed men run into the hotel, shooting everyone inside and around the hotel," said Mustafa Elmi, a Lido beach visitor.
"I managed to escape with minor wounds, but there were people who were shot dead on the spot," he added.
Soon after, another explosion was reported at a nearby Lido Seafood restaurant.
"We believe the second blast was also carried out by a suicide bomber," Aloley said.
Death toll expected to rise
The operation to dislodge the Islamists was "ongoing" said police Captain Mohammed Hussein, adding that the militants may have taken hostages inside the restaurant.
"The (attackers) are still inside and fighting our troops," Hussein said from the scene.
"The place was packed when the (gunmen) came, so the number of casualties will probably rise," he added.
Bodyguards firing at the scene
The Lido beach hotels and restaurants are popular with Somali government officials and entrepreneurs. The casualties reportedly included several security guards.
"Electricity has gone off and there is a lot of confusion," rescue worker Omar Halane said.
"It is very hard for ambulances and rescue workers to help the victims due to gunfire between security forces, private guards of the targeted places, and the attackers," he added.
The al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Thursday attack on pro-insurgent radio station Andalus.
The latest attack comes less than a week after al-Shabab fightersattacked an African Union military base
in southwestern Somalia. The terror group claims they killed about 100 Kenyan soldiers.
The Kenyan government has so far refused to provide a death toll.
dj/kms (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)