Over 20 killed in siege of terrorists at Mogadishu hotel

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More than 20 people were killed and others feared dead as Islamist militants continued their siege of a popular hotel in Somalia’s seaside capital.

Intermittent gunshots could still be heard Saturday night outside Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel, more than 24 hours after gunmen stormed the well-known hangout for Somali officials and businessmen after evening prayers on Friday.

Two police officers briefed on the attack said around 25 bodies had been recovered from the hotel, which is located in a heavily fortified area on the road leading to Mogadishu’s international airport and the “Green Zone” that houses offices and accommodations of international agencies active in the conflict-torn country.

The officers, who weren’t authorized to speak to the media, said more than 50 people had been injured and others were feared dead or hurt inside the hotel complex. The gunmen exploded a car bomb before entering the hotel on foot, the officers said.

Somalia has been in the grips of an insurgency led by the al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab terrorist group for nearly two decades. The group, which controls swaths of the country of 16 million people, regularly launches attacks on civilians and has in the past targeted other hotels in Mogadishu, including several near the Hayat.

The Hayat Hotel attack is the deadliest assault on the capital since Somalia’s new president took office in May.



Photo:

FEISAL OMAR/REUTERS

 

The siege on the Hayat is the deadliest assault on the capital since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took office in May. Somali Memo, a website linked to Al Shabaab, said the group claimed responsibility for the siege.

The United Nations’ secretary-general,

António Guterres,

condemned the attack in a statement issued by his office and expressed his condolences for the families of the victims and the government and people of Somalia. In a statement from its official

Twitter

account, the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu pledged “continued support for #Somalia to hold murderers accountable & build when others destroy.”

The U.S. has been fighting Al Shabaab in Somalia since 2007, the same year the African Union sent a peacekeeping force to the country that sits on the Horn of Africa.

President Biden earlier this year ordered hundreds of American special operators to set up camp in Somalia to train and advise local commandos to fight Al Shabaab. Former President Donald Trump had pulled some 700 U.S. troops from the country in the final days of his term.

Al Shabaab’s insurgency is exacerbating the effects of a record-breaking drought, with around half of Somalia’s population now suffering serious hunger, according to the World Food Program. Around a million Somalis have fled to Mogadishu and other Somali cities this year in search of food and water, aid organizations said this week.

Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at [email protected]

 

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