Somali forces have ended a siege at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, police and the military said on Sunday, adding that they had rescued 106 hostages including women and children.
Somali security forces have said they rescued 106 hostages freed who were trapped inside a hotel that had been stormed by militants on Friday night.
Twenty-one people died and 117 were injured in the 30-hour ordeal, the health ministry said. Officials believe the effort to reclaim the hotel is now concluded. The assailants used explosives to gain entry to Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel before brutally taking control. Islamist extremist group al-Shabab has declared responsibility for the attack.
Police Commander Abdi Hassan Mohammed Hijra briefed journalists about the numbers rescued, which he said included women and children, but did not give a death toll. The hotel has been partially damaged following an intense battle between the militants and security forces throughout Friday night and Saturday, with films showing explosions and smoke billowing from the building’s rooftop. “The security forces have terminated the siege now and the shooters are dead, we’ve had no incoming gunfire from the building in the past hour,” an anonymous official had earlier told the AFP news agency.
“It has been horrific, truly terrifying living next door to the shooting, the explosions. It was one of the most awful things I have ever seen in Mogadishu,” Abdisalam Guled, a former deputy head of Somalia’s national intelligence agency, told the BBC.
Relatives of individuals thought to have been in the hotel when the incident took place are now waiting to find out what happened to them. “My brother was inside the hotel the last time we heard from him, but his phone is shut off now and we don’t know what to anticipate,” businessman Muktar Adan is reported by AFP as saying.
Two Car Bombs
A police officer told Reuters that two car bombs had been used to gain entrance to the hotel on Friday evening – targeting its front barrier and gate. After the initial incident, a website associated with al-Shabab reported a gang of militants was “carrying out random shootings” after having “forcibly entered” the hotel – described as a popular spot for employees of the federal government to congregate.
Security authorities battled to get entry to the higher floors of the hotel for hours because the gunmen, who were holding an unknown number of people hostage, had reportedly blasted out the stairs needed for access. The head of Mogadishu’s primary trauma hospital told AFP that the facility was treating at least 40 people wounded in the hotel bombing and a separate mortar strike on another district of the capital.
Al-Qaeda’s Affiliate Al-Shabab
An affiliate of al-Qaeda, al-Shabab has engaged in a long-running struggle with the federal government. The organization controls much of southern and central Somalia but has been able to extend its influence into territories controlled by the government headquarters in Mogadishu. In recent weeks, fighters associated with the group have also assaulted sites along the Somalia-Ethiopia border, which has sparked fears about a possible new strategy by al-Shabab.
The attack on Friday marked the first in the capital by the organization since Somalia’s new President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May. Hotels and restaurants have been frequent targets, but Mogadishu experienced its bloodiest incident in October 2017, when more than 500 people were killed when a truck laden with explosives was detonated at one of the city’s busiest junctions. No group declared it was behind that attack, although correspondents say all signs are that al-Shabab was involved.