Somali security forces traded fire with Islamist rebels who bombed a Mogadishu hotel on Thursday.
Rescuers said the number of dead from the first explosion, which destroyed several buildings, could well rise.
Al-Shabab also said it was responsible for a January attack on a hotel and shopping complex in neighboring Kenya's capital of Nairobi that killed 21 people.
"The militants are still fighting from inside a civilian house adjacent to the hotel", police officer Major Musa Ali told Reuters on Friday morning.
The attack began when the vehicle bomb went off near the home of appeals court chief Judge Abshir Omar, and security forces fought off gunmen who tried to force their way inside, Hussein said.
Somalia's information minister said on Friday afternoon that the use of human shields by al-Shabab had prlonged the siege.
Al Shabaab's military spokesman said they still controlled the hotel.
Somalia has been convulsed by lawlessness and violence since 1991, and al Shabaab is fighting to dislodge a Western-backed government protected by African Union-mandated peacekeepers.
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Two dozen people were killed, police said, in an attack that Islamic extremists said was an attempt to bomb a hotel.
"There were blasts and sporadic heavy gunfire inside the building, the whole area is cordoned off", Sharif added.
In Mogadishu, a Reuters photographer saw frantic residents searching for missing relatives through the night, making countless phone calls to find out if family members had been seen.
The movement and mobilization of a large portion of al-Shabab military attacks also were weakened by a dramatic increase in the number of US airstrikes.
Witnesses said the bombing took place in the early evening, when the street was filled with people relaxing after a day's work. I have just seen them in hospital. "They are in a critical condition", mother-of-three Hallam Omar told Reuters. Al Shabaab, which has links to the al-Qaeda* terrorist organisation, has conducted numerous attacks throughout the country in an attempt to impose a radical version of Sharia law.
This year, the airstrikes have come at an even faster pace, with 24 so far.
In 2018, the USA conducted 33 air and drone strikes in Somalia, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The U.S. military command for Africa reported a new one that killed 26 al-Shabab fighters on Thursday in central Somalia, where two strikes earlier this week killed 55.