Victims rescued from Somali hotel attack

"So far at least seven people including soldiers and civilians died", Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters. The dead also included a former member of parliament, he said.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Nairobi, Kenya, said at least three heavily armed Al-Shabab gunmen have gained entry to the Nasa-Hablod hotel and that fighting was still going on.

Mohamed Ahmed, a tuk-tuk driver, who was driving by the Nasa-Hablod hotel at the time of the attack, said he "saw a auto exploding at the gate of the hotel".

The attack comes two weeks after a truck bomb left 358 people dead in the city.

Mohamed Dek Haji said he survived the bombing as he walked beside a parked vehicle that was largely destroyed by the explosion.

The attack happened as the country's leaders converged in Mogadishu for a high level security meeting following the October 14 truck bombing that killed more than 350 people.

"A auto loaded with explosives went off at the entrance of Nasa Hablod Hotel and there is gunfire", police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP, saying there was also "a minibus loaded with explosives which went off a nearby intersection". He suffered small injuries on his shoulder and head from flying glass.

On Saturday, a suicide auto bomb was rammed into a hotel, Nasahablod Two, about 600 metres from the presidential palace, and then armed militants stormed the building, police said.

"We can confirm that the president was not at the hotel at the time of the attack", he said.

Security officials said Saturday's bomber had pretended his truck had broken down outside the gate.

U.S. military officials and others in recent months have expressed concern that Somali forces are not yet ready.

A staggering 22,000-strong African Union force is expected to withdraw its forced and hand the country's security to the Somali military by the start of 2021.

  • Tracy Klein