'Hellish gunfire' in hotel as blasts hit Mogadishu

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At least three people were killed in twin vehicle bombings in the Somali capital on Saturday that were claimed by Shabaab Islamists, police and medics said.

"About 14 people, a lot of them civilians, were confirmed dead so far and the security forces are still working to ensure the area is clear", said security official Mohamed Moalim Adan.

The attack started with what is assumed to have been a suicide vehicle bomb detonated outside the Nasa-Hablod 2 Hotel near the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

The fatalities included a police commander and a former government minister, local reporter Harun Maruf wrote, according to Sky News.

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Residents said there was a huge smoke billowing from the scene after a huge explosion followed with gunfire was heard outside the hotel.

A third blast is understood to have been caused by the detonation of an attacker's suicide vest as the militants - reportedly disguised as Somali military personnel - hurled grenades and cut off the building's electricity.

Following the blasts, witnesses reported hearing gunfire and said the entire area around the Nasa Hablod Hotel 2 had been sealed off by security forces to keep people away.

A few minutes later a auto bomb exploded near the former parliament house nearby.

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"Security forces have entered a small portion of the hotel building. the exchange of gunfire is hellish", he said.

It has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago; experts have said the death toll was so high that the group hesitated to further anger Somali citizens as its pursues its insurgency.

"The Mujahedeen fighters are inside Nasa Hablod 2 hotel where".

Al-Shabab, Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, quickly claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack and said its fighters were inside the hotel. "We are fighting inside", Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group's military operations spokesman, told Reuters.

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Police Colonel Mohamed Abdullahi says the bomber stopped outside the heavily fortified hotel and pretended to fix the vehicle before finally turning it around and detonating. No one has claimed responsibility for that attack.