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Somalia: Gunmen storm hotel in capital after car bomb

HARGEISA, Somalia (AP) — Gunmen have fought their way into a hotel in the Somali capital after a suicide car bomb exploded at its gates, a police officer said Wednesday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said dozens of people, including lawmakers, were thought to have been staying at Mogadishu's Dayah hotel at the time of the morning attack.

Heavy gunfire could still be heard inside the hotel, Hussein said. He had no immediate information about casualties.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the homegrown Islamic extremist group al-Shabab often carries out such assaults. In June, gunmen stormed the Nasa-Hablod hotel, killing at least 14 people. Two weeks before that, gunmen killed 15, including two members of parliament, at the Ambassador hotel.

Al-Shabab, al-Qaida's East African affiliate, is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in the Horn of Africa nation.

Despite being ousted from most of its key strongholds, the group continues to carry out deadly guerrilla attacks across large parts of south and central Somalia. Earlier this month, a bomb explosion at a restaurant in Mogadishu killed three, and a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a security checkpoint near Mogadishu's international airport, killing at least three. That blast occurred a few hundred meters (yards) from the main base of the African Union peacekeeping mission.

The assaults have threatened this nation's attempts to rebuild from decades of chaos. The presidential election, a key step toward recovery, already has been delayed multiple times because of security and other concerns.