A suicide bomber has detonated an explosives-laden car at the gate of a Mogadishu hotel, and at least four gunmen have taken hostages inside the building following a furious shootout with police.

At least nine people were killed in the initial blast, while an unknown number of government officials remain trapped inside the building amid sporadic exchanges of gunfire, officials have said.

While the hotel, located in Somalia’s capital, is popular with government officials, it remains unclear who is being targeted in the attack. However, Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility.

The attack started when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car at the gate of the hotel today. Gunmen then quickly moved in.

Police captain Mohamed Hussein said he had counted at least nine bodies at the scene, and the death toll is likely to rise.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has issued a statement taking responsibility for the blitz.

‘We are behind the Hotel Maka Al Mukaram attack, and fighting is still going on inside,’ the group’s military spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said.

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