Car explosion, gunfire hit hotel in Somali port city

DEVELOPING STORY,

State-run TV says security forces dealing with a ‘terrorist incident’ at Tawakal hotel in Kismayo city.

A car laden with explosives rammed into the gate of a hotel in the centre of Somalia’s port city of Kismayo followed by gunfire, a police officer and a resident said on Sunday.

The state-run Somali National Television said on Twitter security forces were dealing with a “terrorist incident” at the hotel.

“There is a blast at Tawakal hotel and there is gunfire being heard,” Mohamed Nur, a police captain, told Reuters from Kismayo.

There was no immediate word on casualties. Witnesses said a huge blast was heard before the gunfire started.

“The security forces have besieged the scene,” Farah Ali, a shopkeeper in Kismayo, told Reuters news agency. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack.

Journalist Jama Nur Ahmed from Mogadishu, quoting an official, told Al Jazeera that “exchange of fire” was still ongoing between security forces and fighters.

Kismayo is the commercial capital of Jubbaland, a region of southern Somalia still partly controlled by armed group al-Shabab.

Al Shabab was driven out of Kismayo in 2012. The city’s port had been a major source of revenue for the group from taxes, charcoal exports and levies on arms and other illegal imports.

In 2019, a similar attack at another hotel in Kismayo killed at least 26 people.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, has pledged to defeat al-Shabaab after countless deadly attacks.

The armed group was driven out of Mogadishu by African Union forces in 2011. However, it still controls swaths of the countryside.

Thousands of Somalis have been killed in a decade-long armed rebellion.

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