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Deaths confirmed after attackers seize Mogadishu hotel

At least eight people have been confirmed dead, after a hardline group said it stormed a popular hotel in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, following two car bomb blasts and gunfire.

“The security forces continued to neutralise terrorists who have been cordoned inside a room in the hotel building, most of the people were rescued but at least eight civilians were confirmed dead so far,” security official Mohamed Abdikadir told the AFP news agency on Saturday.

The siege at the Hotel Hayat, which is popular with government officials as well as civilians, was still under way as he spoke with sporadic gunfire and loud blasts heard in the area.

“The security forces rescued dozens of civilians including children who were trapped in the building safely,” Abdikadir said.

A police officer, who only gave his name as Ahmed, earlier said that two car bombs had exploded – one at a barrier near the hotel and the other at the building’s gate. The assault triggered a fierce gunfight between security forces and the gunmen as they holed themselves up inside the building.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Dozens of people have been gathering outside the hotel to discover the fate of loved ones caught up inside.

“We have been looking for a relative of mine who was trapped inside the hotel, she was confirmed dead together with six other people, two of them I know,” witness Muudey Ali told AFP.

Al-Shabab has been fighting to topple the Somali government for more than 10 years. It wants to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Police officers were conducting an operation aimed at stopping the attack, the state-run Somali National News Agency said on its Twitter account, citing a police spokesperson. The agency posted a picture showing smoke billowing from above the scene.

Earlier this week, the United States announced that its forces had killed 13 al-Shabab fighters in an air raid in the central-southern part of the country as the group was attacking Somali forces.

The US has carried out several air raids on the group’s fighters in recent weeks.

Friday’s attack is the first major assault since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.

Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past. In August 2020, it said it was behind a strike on another hotel in Mogadishu, in which at least 16 people were killed.

Al-Shabab fighters were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force, but the armed group still controls vast swaths of countryside.

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