Somali security forces say they have regained control of a hotel in the capital Mogadishu after an attack by al-Shabaab militants left 21 people dead and more than 110 wounded.
It took Somali forces more than 30 hours to contain the fighters who had stormed Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel on Friday evening in an assault that started with loud explosions. The attack is the first major terror attack in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took over in May.
The siege ended in the early hours of yesterday, according to police commissioner Abdi Hassan Hijar.
“During the attack, the security forces rescued many civilians trapped in the hotel, including women and children,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Ali Haji Adam reported 21 deaths and 117 people wounded, with at least 15 in critical condition.
Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qa’ida, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest of its frequent attempts to strike places visited by government officials.
Al-Shabab opposes the federal government and outside groups that support it. Al-Shabab remains the most lethal Islamic extremist group in Africa and the biggest threat to political stability in the volatile Horn of Africa nation.
Police have not yet given a detailed explanation of how the attack unfolded and it remains unclear how many gunmen entered the hotel.
Ismail Abdi, the hotel’s manager, said yesterday afternoon that security forces were still working to clear the area. The sound of gunfire ended at 9am. Onlookers gathered outside the gates of the badly damaged hotel yesterday morning, surveying the scene.
Somalia’s previous president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, avoided any major confrontation with al-Shabab. But Mr Mohamud has said his government will take the offensive against the group’s thousands of fighters, with the backing of returning US forces.
Al-Shabab said via its Andalus radio station that the attack on the hotel was in response to Mr Mohamud’s assertion that he would eliminate the group from Somalia.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, saying the UN supported the people of Somalia ”in their fight against terrorism and their march towards peace”.
Al-Shabab has seized even more territory in recent years, taking advantage of rifts among Somali security personnel as well as disagreements between the government seat in Mogadishu and regional states.
Forced to retreat from Mogadishu in 2011, al-Shabab is slowly making a comeback from the rural areas to which it retreated.