Insurgents stormed a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Tuesday and killed at least 32 people, including six lawmakers, in an hourlong blaze of gunfire, explosions and smoke.
The al-Shabab movement, an Islamic militant group that has fought the frail, internationally backed government of Somalia for years, claimed responsibility for the attack. Statements from the group cited by news organizations indicated the assault was part of a "massive war" it declared Monday against the Somali government and the United Nations-backed peacekeeping force propping it up.
The perpetually unstable and violent Horn of Africa country has been a source of instability since the early 1990s. Pirates roam its Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden shores while bandits, warlords and Islamic militants control much of the country despite a 6,000-person-strong African Union peacekeeping force in the country.
A government news release citing police said the militants entered the Hotel Muna in Mogadishu's Hamar Weyne district and "fired indiscriminately" at civilians. At one point, one of the militants blew himself up, possibly with a grenade, according to news accounts citing witnesses.
A gunbattle ensued as security forces arrived, the British Broadcasting Corp. cited a witness as saying. Among the dead were hotel staff and five members of the security forces.
"They were shooting at everyone indiscriminately," Somali Minister of Information Abdirahman Omar Osman said in a telephone interview.
Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. envoy to Somalia, said in a statement that the latest attack only reinforced the United Nation's resolve to back the presence of the African Union forces.
Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.