Militants forced their way into a hotel and a nearby public garden in the Somali capital on Friday night, exchanging fire with hotel guards in attacks that left at least 14 dead and many others wounded.
A suicide bomber rammed his car into the SYL hotel's entrance in Mogadishu and blew it up, allowing gunmen to fight their way past hotel guards at the first security barrier, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein. Four gunmen and the suicide bomber were killed, he said, adding that the attackers did not get past the last security checkpoint.
He said at least nine dead bodies of civilians could also be seen outside the hotel after the attack there, which was claimed by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab.
A second car bomb, which exploded within 30 minutes of the attack on the hotel, targeted a public garden near the SYL, he said. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties from the attack on the Peace Garden, which is popular with families seeking an area to relax on weekends.
"We have received 21 people wounded in the blasts - and they are now being treated at the hospital," said Mohamed Abbas, the director of Daru-Shifa hospital in Mogadishu.
The SYL hotel, which is located across from presidential palace in Mogadishu, is frequented by government officials and business executives.
Despite being pushed out of Somalia's major cities and towns, al-Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks across the Horn of Africa, and even across the border. Al-Shabab has carried out attacks on three of the five countries contributing troops to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
The al-Qaida-linked group has carried out many deadly attacks inside Kenya as well, including one in 2013 on the Westgate Mall in the capital of Nairobi in which 67 people were killed.