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At least 12 dead as jihadist group seizes hotel in Somali capital, official says | Somalia

At least 12 people were killed in an attack by Islamist militants on a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, officials said Saturday.

Fighters from Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked group, stormed the popular Hayat Hotel on Friday night amid a hail of gunfire and blasts.

“So far, we have confirmed 12 deaths, mostly civilians,” intelligence officer Mohammed, who only named one, told Reuters. “The operation is almost over, but it’s still in progress.”

On Friday night, the explosion sent a huge column of smoke into the crowded junction, and in the early hours of Saturday morning gunfire was still crackling across the capital.

Attack in Mogadishu is the biggest since Somalia’s new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud elected in May After months of political instability.

The jihadist group, which has waged a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s fragile central government for nearly 15 years, has claimed responsibility.

“The security forces continued to neutralize the terrorists who were locked up in rooms inside the hotel building,” security force commander Mohamed Abdikadir told AFP. “Most have been rescued, but so far he has confirmed at least eight civilian deaths.

“Security forces successfully rescued dozens of civilians, including children, who were trapped inside the building.”

Dozens of people have gathered outside the hotel, trying to discover the fate of their loved ones trapped inside.

Eyewitness Moody Ali said: “We were looking for my relatives who were trapped inside the hotel. She was found dead along with six others. Two of them. I know.”

Witnesses reported at least two large explosions as gunmen stormed the hotel.

Somali security forces patrol near the Hayat Hotel after the attack. Photo: Hassan Ali Elmi/AFP/Getty Images

Police spokesperson Abdifata Adan Hassan told reporters late Friday that the first explosion was caused by a suicide bomber that attacked the hotel along with several other gunmen.

Witnesses said a second explosion occurred just minutes later, killing and wounding rescue workers, security personnel and civilians who rushed to the scene after the first.

The militants claimed responsibility for the attack in a short statement posted on a pro-Shabaab website.

“An al-Shabaab strike group has forced its way into the Hotel Hayat in Mogadishu, and the fighters are conducting a mass shooting inside the hotel,” the group said.

Earlier this week, the US said it had killed 13 al-Shabaab fighters in an airstrike in south-central Somalia as Islamist militants attacked the Somali army.

In recent weeks, al-Shabaab fighters have also launched attacks on the Somali-Ethiopian border, raising concerns about a possible new strategy by the jihadists.

Mohammed said last month that ending the al-Shabaab insurgency would require more than a military approach, but that his government would only negotiate with the group when the time was right.

Al-Shabaab fighters were driven out of the capital by African Union forces in 2011, but the group still controls suburban areas.

the horn of Africa The country has been in turmoil since the fall of President Siad Barre’s military government in 1991.

Somalia’s deadliest attack occurred in October 2017 when a truck full of explosives exploded in Mogadishu’s busy commercial district, killing 512 people.

At least 12 dead as jihadist group seizes hotel in Somali capital, official says | Somalia

Source link At least 12 dead as jihadist group seizes hotel in Somali capital, official says | Somalia

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