Mogadishu (dpa) - At least six people were killed on Saturday in a bombing and shooting attack claimed by Islamist militant group al-Shabaab on a hotel in Somali capital Mogadishu, police said.
A car bomb exploded at 4:20 pm (1320 GMT) outside the heavily guarded Naasa-Hablood hotel, which is popular among government officials, foreigners and aid workers.
Police said gunmen then stormed the hotel and might have taken hostages.
"The attack began with a car bomb blast at the entrance of the hotel killing six people, among them five civilians and one hotel guard," said senior police officer General Abdullahi Barise.
At least two explosions were heard after the first powerful blast. A fuel station opposite the hotel was set on fire, according to witnesses and police.
The death toll could be higher as fighting inside the hotel between the attackers and private security guards was still ongoing, officials and witnesses said.
It was not immediately known how many people were inside the hotel.
Somali special forces later entered parts of the hotel. Sporadic gunfire and small explosions could still be heard around the area.
Government troops blocked all roads leading to the hotel.
A security official, who asked not to be named, said they believed that three to four militants were involved in the attack.
A medical official at Madina Hospital, Mohamed Yusuf, told dpa they had received at least 20 wounded people, most of who were civilians.
Eyewitness Abdifitah Mohamud, who runs a small business near the hotel, said his shop was destroyed completely by the blast.
"I escaped with minor injuries on my head and legs ... But I saw several dead and wounded people lying around on the road," Mohamud said.
The hotel is located near the busy KM4 junction in Mogadishu. At the time of the explosion, residents were returning home from work to break the fast during the month of Ramadan.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on the pro-insurgent Radio Andalus.
Earlier in June, al-Shabaab killed 20 people during a siege on another Mogadishu hotel.
The group, which is seeking an Islamist state in Somalia and is affiliated with the international al-Qaeda terrorist network, has attacked government facilities and hotels in Mogadishu on a regular basis.
In an attack in February, also on a hotel in Mogadishu, al-Shabaab killed 22 people and wounded more than 30.