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At least 20 people were killed after militants stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital

According to police and witnesses, Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in the Somali capital, hours of fighting with security forces left at least 20 people dead.

At least 40 people were also injured in Friday night’s attack and security forces rescued many others, including children, from the scene at Mogadishu’s popular Hayat Hotel, they said on Thursday. Seven.

The attack began with explosions outside the hotel before the gunmen entered the building.

Somali forces are still trying to end the siege of the hotel nearly 24 hours after the attack began. Gunfire could still be heard on Saturday night as security forces tried to stop the last gunmen believed to be hiding on the top floor of the hotel.

Security officers taped criminals in front of a building.
Somali security officers surround an area of ​​the Hayat Hotel, the site of a militant attack in Mogadishu on Saturday. (Feisal Omar / Reuters)

The Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest attempt by al-Shabaab to attack sites where government officials visit. The hotel siege was the first major attack in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, came to power in May.

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

“We send our condolences to the families of the loved ones who have lost their lives, wish a full recovery to those injured and pledge to continue to support #Somalia so that the killers are held accountable and build when others destroy,” it said.

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

Mohamed Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital, told the Associated Press that 40 people were hospitalized with injuries or injuries. While nine people were sent home after receiving treatment, five were in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU), he said.

“We were drinking tea near the hotel lobby when we heard first explosion, then gunfire. I immediately rushed to the hotel rooms on the ground floor and locked the door,” witness Abdullahi Hussein said by phone. phone. “The fighters went straight upstairs and started shooting. I stayed in my room until security came and rescued me.”

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

Image taken from video shows smoke rising in Mogadishu on Saturday during the siege of the Hayat hotel. (Reuters)

Al-Shabaab remains the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

The group has seized even more territory in recent years, taking advantage of a rift between Somali security agents and disagreements between the government seat in Mogadishu and regional states. It remains the biggest threat to political stability in the volatile Horn of Africa country.

Forced to withdraw from Mogadishu in 2011, al-Shabaab is slowly returning from the countryside from which it retreated, despite the presence of African Union peacekeepers and attacks. by American drones targeting their warplanes.

In early May, militants attacked an AU peacekeeping force base outside Mogadishu, killing several Burundian troops. The attack came just days before the presidential vote that brought Mohamud back to power five years after he was voted down.

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