Somali forces have ended a deadly siege by al-Shabab Takfiri militant group at a hotel in the country’s capital which left at least 13 civilian dead.
The al-Qaeda affiliated armed group attacked the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening with two car bombs, before entering the facility while firing their guns and seizing control and holding guests hostage.
“The security forces have ended the siege now and the gunmen are dead, we’ve had no incoming gunfire from the building in the past hour,” the commander told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He gave no further information about the total number of civilian or security casualties, or how many Al-Shabaab terrorists had been killed.
“The building still needed to be cleared of any explosives that may have been planted,” the official added. The state-run Somali National News Agency (SONNA) said on its Twitter account that security forces had secured 95 percent of the building.
#UPDATES:The Security Forces are still conducting an operation to get rid of the terrorists who attacked #Hayat hotel in #Mogadishu. 95 percent of the building has been secured. There are casualties including fatalities and the police will give details soon.#Somalia pic.twitter.com/boPsA6E2N7— SONNA (@SONNALIVE) August 20, 2022
Large sections of the hotel, which is a popular location for government officials, lawmakers and political figures, were destroyed after security forces pounded it with heavy weapons late Saturday in a bid to eliminate assailants who were holed up there for a second straight night.
In a statement by Al-Shabaab’s news agency cited by the SITE Intelligence monitoring group, the Takfiri militants claimed to have held hostages during the siege, including government and security officials but no Somali official has confirmed this claim.
Security official Mohamed Abdikadir had told AFP earlier the number of civilians confirmed to have died was 13, while police officer Ibrahim Duale put the toll at more than 10.
The director of Mogadishu’s main trauma hospital, Mohamed Abdirahman Jama, said the hospital was treating at least 40 people injured in the hotel attack and a separate mortar attack in the Hamar Jajab coastal area.
The attack was the biggest in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May and comes as government forces have stepped up operations against al-Shabab.
The al-Shabab Takfiri group, which claimed responsibility for the siege, has been fighting Somalia’s central government for more than a decade in an attempt to establish its own rule in the African country. Recently the group has launched strikes on the Ethiopian border.
An African Union force pushed Al-Shabaab militants out of the capital in 2011. The group, however, still controls swathes of countryside, and is able to launch deadly strikes on political, civilian and military targets, with hotels and restaurants often hit.
The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past and in August 2020, it said it was behind a raid on another hotel in Mogadishu, in which at least 16 people were killed. The deadliest attack occurred in October 2017 when a truck packed with explosives blew up in Mogadishu, killing 512 people.
In addition to the insurgency, Somalia is in the grip of a devastating drought that has driven one million people from their homes and left the country in the shadow of famine, according to the United Nations.