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Shabab militants attack hotel near presidential palace in Somalia

An ambulance carrying an injured person from an attack by al-Shabab gunmen on a hotel near the presidential residence arrives to the Shaafi hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, December 10, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants in Somalia have launched an attack on a hotel close to the presidential residence in the country’s capital of Mogadishu, with police saying they killed two attackers and rescued dozens of people in clashes with the terrorist outfit.

The Somali police said on Tuesday that the militants were disguised as security officers and came in a police vehicle before opening fire at the SYL hotel which is popular with government officials and lawmakers.

"We thought they were police but they started hurling grenades and firing us when they neared and so we exchanged fire at the gate of the hotel," a police officer who gave his name as Ahmed told Reuters.

The officer provided no details about the number of possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Zakia Hussen, Somalia's deputy police commissioner, however, said security forces killed two of the attackers outside the hotel and were fighting two others on the premises.

"So far, security forces have rescued 82 people, both civilians and officials," Zakia said on her Twitter account.

The hotel has twice been targeted by the militant group in recent years. Shabab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Mus'ab claimed responsibility for the attack and said the militants were still inside the hotel compound.

The Tuesday attack was the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by al-Shabab militant group, which has long sought to topple the UN-backed Somali government.

The terrorist outfit was forced out of Mogadishu with the help of African Union forces in 2011. However, it still wields control in large parts of the countryside, and every now and then carries out deadly attacks against government, military, and civilian targets in the capital as well as regional towns.

It has fought successive Somali governments as well as neighboring governments in Kenya and Uganda.

Somalia has faced instability and violence since 1991, when the military government was overthrown.

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