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Somali forces end hotel attack in which 20 were killed

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Soldiers patrol outside the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Saturday.

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali authorities on Sunday appeared to have ended a deadly attack on a hotel in the capital in which at least 20 people were killed.

It took Somali forces more than 30 hours to contain the gunmen who had stormed Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel on Friday evening in an assault that started with loud explosions.

Ismail Abdi, the hotel’s manager, told the AP that while the siege has ended, security forces were still working to clear the area.

No more gunfire could be heard after 9 a.m. local time. Onlookers gathered outside the gates of the badly damaged hotel on Sunday morning, surveying the scene.

Police are yet to give a detailed explanation of how the attack unfolded. It remains unclear how many gunmen entered the hotel.

The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest of its frequent attempts to strike places visited 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.

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, according to a spokesman’s statement that said the U.N. supports the people of Somalia “in their fight against terrorism and their march towards peace.”

In addition, at least 40 people were wounded in the late Friday night attack and security forces rescued many others, including children, from the scene at Mogadishu’s popular Hayat Hotel, they said Saturday.

In a Twitter post, the U.S. Embassy in Somalia said it “strongly condemns” the attack on the Hayat.

“We extend condolences to the families of loved ones killed, wish a full recovery to the injured, & pledge continued support for #Somalia to hold murderers accountable & build when others destroy,” it said.

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, told the AP that 40 people were admitted there with wounds or injuries from the attack. While nine 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.”

Getty Images/AFP

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

Al-Shabab remains the most lethal Islamic 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 disagreements between the government seat in Mogadishu and regional states. It remains the biggest threat to political stability in the volatile 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.

The militants in early May attacked 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 had been voted out.

Somali forces end hotel attack in which 20 were killed : NPR

 

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