UPDATE: June 25, 4:15 p.m. EDT -- Police in Mogadishu, Somalia, have told the Associated Press that the standoff has ended.
“They started with a suicide bomb and then stormed in. Now they are inside and the heavy exchange of gunfire continues,” police spokesman Maj Nur Farah told Reuters.
The Islamic militia group took responsibility for the attack in a statement hours later. “We attacked the hotel which was frequented by the apostate government members,” said military operations spokesman Sheik Abdiasis Abu Musab, confirming the gunmen had infiltrated the building.
The hotel is a haunt of politicians and military officials. Al-Shabab has launched many attacks within Mogadishu as part of a long struggle to oust the government.
Voice of America reported there was a heavy exchange of gunfire inside the Hotel Naso-Hablod, which is north of the capital’s airport.
Only a few weeks ago, al-Shabab carried out a similar attack at the Ambassador Hotel, also in Mogadishu. Police said 24 people were killed in that earlier attack, including the three gunmen.
VOA noted the group appeared to time its attack to Ramadan, part of a pattern going back several years, giving militants the chance to catch people off guard as they come together to break their fast.