The latest in a series of assaults on hotels in Somalia is underway. Al-Shabab gunmen stormed the building and have used machine guns to resist security forces.
An explosive-packed vehicle was blown up in front of the Nasa-Hablod hotel in the Somali capital followed by gunmen shooting their way inside, a police officer said on Saturday.
"They started with a suicide bomb and then stormed in. Now they are inside and the heavy exchange of gunfire continues," Major Nur Farah said.
At least five people have been killed and another six wounded. An unknown number of militants have barricaded themselves inside and taken up sniper positions on the roof. An ambulance driver said he evacuated 11 people injured in the attack to hospitals. "Most of them were wounded in crossfire," he said.
Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said the attackers "took positions behind blast walls and sandbags; fighting is still ongoing."
Authorities said at least two attackers had been killed but it is not known how many are holed up in the building. An unknown number of hotel guests have been taken hostage.
The al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We attacked the hotel which was frequented by the apostate government members," al-Shabab military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told the Reuters news agency.
The militants regularly carry out attacks in the countryside and capital in a bid to oust the internationally recognized government. A car bomb attack on another hotel three weeks ago left 10 people dead, including two lawmakers.
The African Union has more than 20,000 troops in Somalia supporting the government.
The mission is under strain after Uganda announced on Friday it would withdraw 6,000 troops by the end of 2017 after the European Union cut its funding for the mission in Somalia by 20 percent. The Ugandans are the largest troop
cw/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)