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Somalia hotel siege: Security forces says al-Shabab attack is over

Security forces patrol near the entrance to the Hyatt Hotel in Mogadishu

Security forces patrol near the entrance to the Hyatt Hotel in Mogadishu

Somali security forces said they rescued 106 people trapped inside a hotel attacked by militants on Friday night.

The 30-hour ordeal left 21 dead and 117 injured, the health ministry said. Officials say the fight to recover the hotel is now over.

The attackers used explosives to enter the Hyatt Hotel in Mogadishu before violently taking control.

Islamic militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police commander Abdi Hassan Mohammad Hijra told reporters about the number of people rescued, which he said included women and children, but did not give a death toll.

The hotel was largely destroyed after intense fighting between militants and security forces throughout Friday night and Saturday, with videos showing explosions and smoke billowing from the roof of the building.

“The security forces have now ended the siege and the gunmen are dead, we have not heard any gunshots from the building in the last hour,” an official told news agency AFP earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Abdisalam Guled, the former deputy director of Somalia’s national intelligence agency, told the BBC, “The gunfight, being next to the explosions, is horrible, really horrible. . . .

Relatives of those believed to have been at the hotel at the time of the attack are now waiting to learn what happened to them.

“My brother was inside the hotel when we last heard from him, but his phone is switched off now and we don’t know what to expect,” AFP quoted businessman Muktar Adan as saying.

Who are Al-Shabaab in Somalia?
A police official told Reuters that two car bombs were used to enter the hotel on Friday evening – targeting its front barrier and gate.

After the initial attack, a website linked to al-Shabaab said a group of militants had “randomly opened fire” after “forcing their way into” the hotel – described as a popular meeting place for federal government workers.

Security forces struggled to gain access to the top floors of the hotel for hours as the gunmen, who were holding an unknown number of hostages, bombed the stairwells needed to gain entry.

The director of Mogadishu’s main trauma hospital told AFP that at least 40 people were being treated for injuries from the attack on the hotel and separate mortar attacks in other areas of the capital.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, has been in a long-running conflict with the federal government.

The group controls much of southern and central Somalia, but has been able to extend its influence into areas controlled by the Mogadishu-based government.

In recent weeks, fighters linked to the group have also attacked targets along the Somalia-Ethiopia border, raising concerns about possible new tactics by al-Shabaab.

Friday’s attack was the first in the capital since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May.

Hotels and restaurants have been frequently targeted, but Mogadishu saw its deadliest attack in October 2017, when a truck packed with explosives exploded at the city’s busiest intersection, killing more than 500 people.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though reporters say all indications are that al-Shabaab is responsible.

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