Islamist militants attacked a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu Tuesday, killing more than 30 people, including six members of parliament.
The Somali insurgent group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack through its spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage.
Witnesses told VOA's Somali service that three armed men attacked the Muna Hotel at about 10 am local time.
They say the men shot two guards outside the hotel before storming inside and going room-to-room, spraying gunfire.
The hotel houses many Somali lawmakers and officials. One member of parliament, Hawo Abdullahi Qayad, told VOA that two of the attackers had suicide vests and blew themselves up when they ran out of bullets.
The government said there were two attackers, and that they were dressed in government uniforms. It put the death toll from the attack at 31, including the six lawmakers and five security force members.
Al-Shabab and another insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, are trying to topple the fragile Somali government.
The militants control much of Mogadishu in addition to large parts of southern and central Somalia. Both groups have imposed a harsh form of sharia, or Islamic law, in the areas under their rule.
The Muna Hotel is near one of the few areas of Mogadishu still under government control, the Somali presidential palace.
On Monday, al-Shabab announced a new offensive against the government and African Union troops that support it. At least 29 people were killed in clashes before the hotel attack.
Also Monday, the AU said hundreds of Ugandan troops had arrived to bolster the 6,000-member AU peacekeeping force.
Last month, al-Shabab carried out its first attack outside of Somalia -- bombings in Uganda that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final on television.
Somalia has been without a stable central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre fled the country in 1991. Years of fighting have ravaged the Horn of Africa nation, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
Article by VOA News