Two vehicle bombs exploded Saturday in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, killing unknown numbers of people.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, Mohamed Hussein, an army captain, said more than 20 people, including government officials, were thought to be trapped as security forces battled extremists holed up on the top floor of the hotel.
A suicide auto bomber first drove into a hotel where President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was due to host a meeting on Saturday, following by a vehicle bombing near a former parliament building.
Local media reported that heavily-armed gunmen had stormed the Nasa-hablood hotel after the explosion and a gunbattle continues to rage on inside.
"The second auto bomb exploded 30 minutes later near National Intelligence Agency prison known as Godka-jilacow", Mohamed said.
"Security forces have entered a small portion of the hotel building. the exchange of gunfire is hellish", he said.
One senior police official and a former MP are among the dead.
A huge cloud of smoke rose over the scene and a Reuters witness saw over a dozen wrecked cars and bloodstains in front of the hotel.
Fellow witness Ismail Muktar said, "We can hear sporadic gunfire and grenade blasts and the area is very dark because the electric line was cut off amid the blast".
It has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago; experts have said the death toll was so high that the group hesitated to further anger Somali citizens as its pursues its insurgency. "We are fighting inside", said Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group's military operations spokesman.
He said the hotel belonged to Somalia's internal security minister, Mohamed Abukar Islow.
Its sister hotel, the Nasahablod, was targeted by Al Shabab in a similar attack that killed 11 people in June previous year.
The al-Shabab extremist group has claimed responsibility for the attack and confirmed that its fighters were inside the hotel.
Three of the five attackers were killed, Capt Hussein said.