Twelve people have been killed and scores of others injured in two powerful car bomb blasts that ripped through the embattled Somali capital city of Mogadishu.
Major Ahmed Nur, a police officer, said a bomber rammed his vehicle rigged with explosives into the gate of Sahafi Hotel, which is popular with government employees and businessmen and situated near the major K4 roundabout in the center of Mogadishu, early on Sunday morning.
The force of the explosion damaged parts of the building, and sent a plume of black smoke above the capital. A number of cars parked in the area were wrecked, and several motorbikes destroyed.
Shortly afterwards, a second explosion rocked the hotel building, and Somali security forces engaged in an intense exchange of gunfire with the assailants, who had made their way into the building.
“Fighters with machine guns are firing at us from the rooftop of the hotel,” said Major Osman Ali, a Mogadishu police officer.
Al-Shabaab militants have claimed responsibility for the attack with group’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, saying that the “operation still goes on.”
The developments came only a day after al-Shabaab stormed two military bases in the villages of Moora-Gaabey and Garasweyne, which lie close to the southwestern town of Hudur.
Local residents reported explosions followed by gunfire that lasted for three hours. Regional official Adan Abdi said more than 50 militants were killed in the fighting.
Al-Shabaab spokesman, Abdiaziz Abu Mus'ab, claimed that 25 soldiers, including 15 Ethiopian peacekeepers, were killed in the clashes.
On October 28, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud called on al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants to lay down arms and choose the “path to peace,” warning the group against pledging allegiance to Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
Mohamoud said the latest al-Shabaab dispute on whether to switch allegiance were “symptomatic of a group that has lost its way.”
Al-Shabaab, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012, has been behind violence and chaos in Somalia since 2006, targeting key government and security figures in the country.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material
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