Scores of people are being held hostage after over 24 hours of fierce fighting between security forces and Islamist insurgents in a Somalian hotel.
At least 20 people have been killed in the attack, which began on Friday when members of the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab barricaded themselves inside the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu.
A complex rescue mission is taking place amid gunfire and explosions, but the safety of those imprisoned is unclear.
Children have been pulled from the building and at least 40 people are receiving urgent treatment in the capital’s main trauma hospital.
It is the biggest attack in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May after many months of political instability.
Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency for 15 years against the fragile government, has claimed responsibility.
Its spokesman Abdiaziz Abu-Musab told the group’s Andalus radio Saturday that its forces were still in control of the building and that they had “inflicted heavy casualties”.
He added that fighters were carrying out “random shooting” inside the hotel, which is popular among government officials.
Witnesses had reported at least two powerful explosions on Friday, the first of which officials said was caused by a suicide bomber.
A second blast occurred just a few minutes later, inflicting more casualties as rescuers, security forces and civilians rushed to the scene.
Crowds of people have gathered nearby to discover the fate of their loved ones.
“We have been looking for a relative of mine who was trapped inside the hotel, she was confirmed dead together with six other people, two of them I know,” said local Muudey Ali.
It comes alongside a mortar strike in the seafront neighbourhood of Hamar Jajab.
“Among those critically wounded are a newlywed bride and her groom and a family of three children, a mother and their father,” district commissioner Mucawiye Muddey said.
Al-Shabaab fighters have carried out several attacks in Somalia since Mr Mohamud took office and have also launched strikes on the Ethiopian border.
Earlier this week it emerged that 13 Al-Shabaab operatives were killed in a US airstrike.
It is the latest since President Joe Biden ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia, reversing a decision by Donald Trump.