At least eight civilians were killed on Saturday as security forces continued to battle terrorist group Al-Shabab, which stormed a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, a security commander said.

“The security forces continued to neutralise terrorists who have been cordoned inside a room in the hotel building, most of the people were rescued but at least eight civilians were confirmed dead so far,” said the official, Mohamed Abdikadir.

According to the report, the assault in the Somali capital came after two car bomb blasts and gunfire as the armed group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility.

Abdikadir Abdirahman, director and founder of Mogadishu’s Aamin ambulance services, said late on Friday so far nine injured people were carried away from the hotel.

“Two car bombs targeted Hotel Hayat. One hit a barrier near the hotel and then the other hit the gate of the hotel. We believe the fighters are inside the hotel,” said a police officer.

Two intelligence officers, who did not want to be identified, also confirmed the incident.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The assault triggered a fierce gunfight between security forces and gunmen who were still holed up inside the building, said security official Abdukadir Hassan to the media. ”We don’t have the details so far but there are casualties, and the security forces are now engaging with the enemy who are holed up inside the building,” Hassan said.

The Hayat is a popular spot in Mogadishu in an area where several other hotels are located, and it is frequented by government officials and civilians.

Al-Shabab has been fighting to topple the Somali government for more than 10 years. It wants to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, reported Al Jazeera.

Police officers were conducting an operation aimed at stopping the attack, the state-run Somali National News Agency said on its Twitter account, citing a police spokesperson. The agency posted a picture showing smoke billowing from above the scene.

Earlier this week, the United States announced that its forces had killed 13 Al-Shabab fighters in an air raid in the central-southern part of the country as the group was attacking Somali forces.

The US has carried out several air raids on the fighters in recent weeks.

Friday’s attack is the first major assault since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.

Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past. In August 2020, it said it was behind a strike on another hotel in Mogadishu, in which at least 16 people were killed.

Al-Shabab fighters were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force, but the armed group still controls vast swaths of countryside.