Al-Shabab militants attacked an upscale Mogadishu hotel on Tuesday, causing an unknown number of casualties.
Somali police and security forces have cordoned off the Hotel SYL as they attempt to flush out the attackers.
Abdirahman Omar Jeeni-Qaar, former commander of the Somali army's special forces, was at the hotel when the militants opened fire. He told VOA that about five assailants arrived at the hotel on foot just before 7 p.m. local time. Some of the militants fired on security forces guarding the nearby presidential palace, presumably to distract while others entered the hotel, he says.
Jeeni-Qaar says he saw two of the attackers, wearing the uniform of the Somali security forces. He says they were firing small arms and throwing hand grenades.
He told VOA Somali that his bodyguards saved him and other guests at the hotel. But, some civilians remained inside the building.
Security sources told VOA Somali that at least two lawmakers have suffered minor injuries.
Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, and says it was carried out by their suicide infantry known as "Inqimasi."
Meanwhile, the U.S. military has reported carrying out an airstrike near the town of Saakow in Middle Jubba region on Monday, killing one al-Shabab militant. The strike brings the number of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia this year to 59.