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Loud explosion is heard as Somali militant group says its fighters have attacked a hotel in capital

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The Somali extremist group al-Shabab said its fighters have attacked a hotel in the capital Mogadishu, where a loud explosion and gunfire were heard Thursday night.

Al-Shabab said on its Telegram channel that its fighters managed to penetrate the SYL Hotel, which is located not far from the presidential palace in a normally secure part of Mogadishu. The hotel is patronized by government officials.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

Attacks in the seaside capital had reduced in recent weeks amid a beefing up of security there. Al-Shabab, which opposes Somalia's federal government, is responsible for many lethal attacks on hotels and other places over the years.

The last major attack in Mogadishu happened in October 2022, when at least 120 civilians were killed in twin car bombings at a busy junction.

Somalia’s government has been engaged in a high-profile new offensive against the extremist group that the United States has described as one of al-Qaida’s deadliest organizations. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has declared “total war” against the extremists, who control large parts of central and southern Somalia and have been the target of scores of U.S. airstrikes in recent years.