Armed Assailants Storm Hotel in Somalia,Kill 20

Militants believed to be affiliated to al-Qaida terrorist group stormed a hotel in Mogadishu, engaged in a gun duel with the security forces that left at least 20 people dead.

Witnesses say, at least 40 people were severely wounded in the late Friday night attack.

Security forces rescued several people including children from the scene at Mogadishu’s popular Hayat Hotel.

Explosions were first heard outside the hotel before the armed men stormed the building.

Twenty four hours after the siege, Somali forces are still trying to contain the attack.

Exchange of gunfires could still be heard Saturday evening as security forces tried to contain the last gunmen thought to be trapped on the hotel’s topmost floor.

The extremist group al-Shabab linked with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack. It is the latest in their strike against locations believed to be frequented by government officials.

The attack on the hotel is the first major terror incident in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took over in May.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the victims, but many are believed to be civilians.

Mohamed Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital confirmed that 40 people were admitted there with injuries sustained during the attack.

While 9 were sent home after getting treatment, five are in critical condition in the ICU, he said.

“We were having tea near the hotel lobby when we heard the first blast, followed by gunfire. I immediately rushed toward hotel rooms on the ground floor and I locked the door,” witness Abdullahi Hussein said by phone. “The militants went straight upstairs and started shooting. I was inside the room until the security forces arrived and rescued me.”

He said on his way to safety he saw “several bodies lying on the ground outside hotel reception.”

Al-Shabab remains the most vicious extremist group in Africa. The group has seized even more territory in recent years, taking advantage of rifts among Somali security personnel as well as discords between the government seat in Mogadishu and regional states. It remains the biggest threat to political stability in the Horn of Africa nation.

Forced to retreat from Mogadishu in 2011, al-Shabab is slowly making a comeback from the rural areas to which it retreated, defying the presence of African Union peacekeepers as well as U.S. drone strikes targeting its fighters.

In early May, the insurgents bombed a military base for AU peacekeepers outside Mogadishu, killing many Burundian troops.

The attack came just days before the presidential vote that returned Mohamud to power five years after he lost re-election.


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