Islamist gunmen kill four guards in hotel attack in Somalia

BOSASSO, SOMALIA: Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region on Wednesday, killing four guards, a senior official and an Islamic State agency said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in Bosasso, according to its news agency Amaq. A group declaring allegiance to Islamic State has been active in the Puntland region in recent months.

The senior official had earlier blamed Islamists from al Shabaab, but a spokesman for the Somali group denied this.

Three fighters stormed the International Village Hotel, Yusuf Mohamed, the governor of Bari region, told Reuters. "Four guards and two of the attackers died in the fighting," he said.

He said the militants had managed to enter the compound but not the main building of the hotel, which is popular with foreigners.

Islamist leader Abdiqadir Mumin broke away from the main al Shabaab insurgency in 2015 and swore allegiance to Islamic State. Experts says the group's strength is unclear, but he may have fighters numbering in the low hundreds under his command.

However, experts say his group has no known operational links to Islamic State in the Middle East.

Al Shabaab regularly launches attacks in Somalia, but tends to focus on the capital Mogadishu and other regions controlled by the federal government.

Until 2011, the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab controlled most of Somalia including Mogadishu. Since then it has been pushed out of the capital and slowly forced out of other strongholds by African Union troops and Somali soldiers.