View of a damaged car in the aftermath of an al-Shabab explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, in late October. The group has claimed responsibility for a hotel attack on Sunday that killed four people. File Photo by Said Yusuf Warsame/EPA-EFE
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Somali militants attacked the popular Villa Rose Hotel in Mogadishu Sunday evening, killing four and leaving dozens more injured as government forces fought to regain control on Monday.
The downtown hotel, not far from Somalia's presidential palace, is a well-known meeting place for government officials and foreigners. Witnesses said they heard several explosions and loud gunfire as militants entered the hotel.
"We prayed evening prayers in the small mosque in the hotel and there is this big explosion, deafening explosion, massive, that shattered glass everywhere, that shook the foundation of the building in which we were meeting," said Somali Environment Minister Adam Aw Hirsi, who was in the hotel at the time of the attack but managed to escape.
"As soon as the explosion took place we had a 120 seconds leeway between the explosion and the terrorist foot soldiers coming."
The militant group al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The incident appears to be a continuation of a tit-for-tat battle between the Somali government and al-Shabab. The government had increased its military operation against the military group in recent months while al-Shabab has escalated its bombings around Mogadishu in response.
Some government officials in the hotel escaped through a window. Fisheries Minister Abdilahi Bidhan Warsame and Sen. Dunia Mohamed both escaped during the initial attack.
Al-Shabab militants on Friday attacked a military base in the village of Qayib, in the central Galgaduud region, which sparked clashes between the army and the militants.
On Oct. 29, the extremists took responsibility for two car bombs that exploded outside the Ministry of Education, killing at least 100 people and injuring about 300 more.
In August, Somalia security forces had to end a siege on the upscale Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu that killed more than 20 people and injured more than110 more.