Somali forces have ended a siege at a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, the police and army said on Sunday, adding that they had rescued 106 hostages, including women and children.
Somali security forces said they rescued 106 freed hostages who were trapped inside a hotel that had been stormed by militants on Friday night.
Twenty-one people died and 117 were injured during the 30-hour ordeal, the Ministry of Health announced. Officials believe the effort to reclaim the hotel is now complete. The attackers used explosives to enter the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu before brutally taking control. The Islamist extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Police Commander Abdi Hassan Mohammed Hijra briefed journalists on the numbers rescued, which he said included women and children, but did not give a death toll. The hotel was partially damaged following an intense battle between militants and security forces throughout the evening of Friday and Saturday, with footage showing explosions and smoke rising from the roof of the building. “The security forces have ended the siege now and the shooters are dead, we have not received gunfire from the building in the last hour,” an unnamed official previously told the AFP news agency.
“It was awful, really terrifying to live next to the shootings, the explosions. It was one of the most horrific things I have ever seen in Mogadishu,” Abdisalam Guled, the former deputy head of Somalia’s national intelligence agency, told the BBC.
Relatives of individuals believed to have been in the hotel when the incident occurred are now waiting to find out what happened to them. “My brother was in the hotel the last time I heard from him, but his phone is switched off now and we don’t know what to expect,” businessman Muktar Adan said, according to AFP.
Two car bombs
A police officer told Reuters that two car bombs were used to enter the hotel on Friday night – targeting its front barrier and gate. After the initial incident, an al-Shabab-affiliated website reported that a gang of militants was “carrying out random shootings” after “forcefully entering” the hotel – described as a popular place for federal government employees to congregate.
Security authorities struggled for hours to enter the upper floors of the hotel as the gunmen, who were holding an unknown number of people hostage, allegedly blew up the stairs needed to gain access. The head of Mogadishu’s primary trauma hospital told AFP the facility was treating at least 40 people injured in the hotel bombing and a separate mortar strike in another neighborhood of the capital.
Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabab
An al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab has engaged in a long-running battle with the federal government. The organization controls much of southern and central Somalia, but has managed to extend its influence into territories controlled by the government headquarters in Mogadishu. In recent weeks, fighters associated with the group have also attacked sites along the Somalia-Ethiopia border, raising fears of a possible new strategy by al-Shabab.
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Friday’s attack marked the group’s first in the capital since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May. Hotels and restaurants were frequent targets, but Mogadishu saw its deadliest incident in October 2017, when more than 500 people were killed after a truck loaded with explosives detonated at one of the city’s busiest intersections. No group has claimed responsibility for that attack, although correspondents say all signs point to al-Shabab being involved.