Somalia forces end deadly attack at hotel near presidential palace

Mogadishu – (CNN) – Security forces ended a deadly attack at a hotel near presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Tuesday after a seven-hour battle that left at least two civilians dead.

The attack began when five heavily armed gunmen overpowered security guards and stormed the upscale SYL hotel, according to police and government officials.

The attackers, claimed by terrorist group Al-Shabaab, began shooting at responding Somali security forces, said police officer Ali Abdi.

All five attackers have since been killed, officials said.

“The security forces have finally accomplished the operation they have been conducting in SYL hotel, the entire of the 5 attackers have been killed, 5 people have been killed in the attack and 2 out of the 5 were civilians who were relaxing in the hotel SYL,” tweeted government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar early Wednesday.

Dozens of people were evacuated from the hotel, he also said. The SYL is close to the presidential palace and is popular with Somali lawmakers and security officials, according to local police.

Hassan Ahmed, who was in a nearby building when the attack unfolded, told CNN he heard the sound of explosions coming from inside the hotel.

Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement its fighters conducted the raid as planned. 

The attack appears to be a new tactical shift by the rebels. Previously they have used car bombs at heavily fortified targets to blow openings for gunmen to enter on foot.

This assault was carried out completely by gunmen on foot. Security officials said new security measures, including multiple checkpoints across Mogadishu, have made it difficult for the rebels to sneak car bombs into the capital city and have forced the rebels to stage attacks on foot.