A suicide bomber from insurgent group al-Shabaab detonated a bomb just outside the entrance of the Maka al-Mukarama Hotel on Friday evening in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, the Associated Press reported.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab military spokesperson, confirmed the group's responsibility for the attack to Reuters.
"We are behind the Hotel Maka Al Mukaram attack and fighting is still going on inside the hotel," he said.
Somali law enforcement officials said that immediately following the explosion, at least four gunmen entered the building. Gunfire was exchanged when the fighters likely encountered hotel security guards.
Police Major Ismail Olow said, "Most parts of the hotel are in the hands of the government forces now," but that he heard "sporadic gunfire and grenades hurled from the windows of the second floor of the hotel."
The number of hotel guests trapped inside the building is unknown. The death toll is around seven and nine, according to reports, but local law enforcement expects these numbers to rise.
In 2007, al-Shabaab controlled Mogadishu until 2011, when the African Union ordered it out of the capital and other major cities. But the executive ruling has not curtailed the militant group's violent attacks.
In December 2014, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility after a United Nations convoy fell under attack. At least four people died. A few weeks later, one of the group's most feared leaders surrendered.
On Feb. 20, al-Shabaab carried out a similar suicide bombing on two luxury hotels in Mogadishu, killing 10 people.
The highest-profile terrorist attack for which al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility was the Westgate Mall massacre that took place in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 23, 2013.