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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Michael Fitzpatrick

Hotel siege ends in Somali capital, at least eight dead

Ambulances in Mogadishu after last month's attack on the Education Ministry. AFP - HASSAN ALI ELMI

At least eight people have been killed in an attack by suspected Al-Shabaab militants who laid siege to a popular hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu overnight. Local security officials took over 18 hours to dislodge the attackers.

Update 17.00 (GMT): Somali security forces have ended a deadly hours-long siege by Al-Shabaab militants who stormed a popular hotel in the capital Mogadishu overnight, the national police spokesman said on Monday, adding that at least 8 civilians had been killed.

"The clearance operation in the Villa Rose hotel has ended, we will give the details later," Sadik Dudishe, a spokesman for the Somali national police, told reporters.

Update, 14.45 (GMT): The noise of gunfire could still be heard coming from the besieged Villa Rose hotel 18 hours after Islamist militants stormed the central Mogadishu landmark in a hail of bullets and explosions.

Mohamed Dahir, an official from the national security force, told the AFP news agency that government forces had taken control of the hotel and pinned the insurgents down in a top-floor room.

"The terrorist gunmen are trapped inside a room in the hotel and the security forces are close to ending the siege very soon," he said.

Sporadic gunfire and explosions were heard after dawn around the Villa Rose, which is located near the presidential palace in a heavily guarded area of Mogadishu and is frequented by lawmakers and public officials.

"So far we have confirmed the death of four people," the security official said.

"Several other people were wounded including government officials," Dahir added.

Witnesses described two massive explosions followed by gunfire that sent people fleeing the scene in Bondhere district. The hotel is just a few blocks from the office of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Map of Somalia locating the capital Mogadishu, where gunmen stormed a hotel Sunday AFP

All routes leading to the hotel have been cordoned off by security forces, according to witnesses.

Al-Shabaab, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that has been trying to overthrow Somalia's central government for 15 years, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The militants have intensified attacks against civilian and military targets as Somalia's recently-elected government has pursued a policy of "all-out war" against the Islamists.

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