Somalia’s security forces are battling gunmen in a building in Mogadishu, hours after a suicide car bomb attack on a busy street left at least 20 people dead, security sources say.
The attack was launched late on Thursday by suspected al-Shabab militants in an area lined with hotels, shops and restaurants.
The gunmen then seized a nearby building and were surrounded.
Exchanges of gunfire continued throughout the night in the capital.
Some 60 people have been injured and seven have died in the attacks on Maka al-Mukarama road, a spokesman for the Aamin Ambulance service told the BBC.
A number of civilians have been rescued from the building, reports say.
There are fears that the death toll will rise further.
“There are still some armed men inside a building,” police officer Ibrahim Mohamed was quoted as saying yesterday morning by the AFP news agency.
The secretary-general of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Mohamed Moalimuu was inside the Maka al-Mukarama hotel with a colleague when they heard gunshots followed by a blast:
The Maka al-Mukarama road is the busiest road in Mogadishu. It has been repeatedly targeted by al-Shabab militants despite being one of the most heavily guarded roads in the country.
Hassan Haile, a prominent UK-based Somali political analyst, told the BBC that the Islamist militant group were especially drawn to the road.
“Al-Shabab like attacking Maka al-Mukarama because it is in the heart of Somalia,” he said.
He told the BBC the Islamist militant group use bribes and threats to carry out their attacks.
“They either bribe with money or make it very clear that they know where the soldiers live and who their families are, to reach where they want to reach,” Mr. Haile said.
“There is negligence from the government, the soldiers have no money and they don’t get encouragement which makes these kinds of attacks possible.”
The Islamist group al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 but continues to mount regular attacks in the city.
The US has sharply increased its air strikes against the group since President Trump took power.
The former deputy director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) says that al-Shabab has increased its attacks in Mogadishu as retaliation for the airstrikes.
Abdisalam Guled was also concerned that this week’s withdrawal of Burundian troops from the African Union force in the city could further jeopardise security. -BBC