At least three people have been killed in an ongoing attack on a hotel in Kismayo, southern Somalia, claimed by Al-Shabaab Islamists, police and a witness said on Sunday. The attack began at 12:45 pm (0945 GMT) when a booby-trapped car rammed the hotel entrance. “Terrorist attackers stormed Hotel Tawakal this afternoon and there is ongoing fighting inside the building now between the security forces and the terrorists,” police officer Abdullahi Ismail told AFP. “There are fatalities and three civilians were confirmed dead but it is very difficult to say the exact number of the casualties now.” “This is not a government target,” he added. “It is just an ordinary, civilian-frequented hotel.” Al-Shabaab, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, said members of the federal government of Jubaland, where Kismayo is located, were meeting in the hotel at the time. Witness Farhan Hassan, who was outside the hotel when the attack happened, told AFP he had seen “the dead bodies of three people recovered near the main entrance”. “A suicide bomber drove a vehicle into the entrance of the hotel before the gunmen entered the building,” he said. “Shooting started inside and it looks (like) the gunmen were randomly shooting people inside.” Hassan said gunfire could still be heard inside the hotel. “We don’t know the number of those who may have been killed inside,” he said. Somalia, a desperately poor country in the Horn of Africa, has faced severe instability for decades. Al-Shabaab has been fighting the internationally recognised government since 2007 and civilians are often caught in the crossfire. The group has been ousted from Somalia’s major cities — including from the capital Mogadishu in 2011 — but still controls swathes of the countryside and has stepped up attacks in recent months. In August it launched a 30-hour gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat hotel in Mogadishu, killing 21 people and wounding 117. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, vowed after the siege to wage “all-out war” on the Islamists. In addition to the violence, the United Nations has warned that people in parts of Somalia are on the brink of famine. The Horn of Africa is in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years, following four failed rainy seasons that have wiped out livestock and crops.