© Reuters. A Somali security officer walks past an area of the Hayat hotel, the scene of an attack by al Qaeda-linked militant group al Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia August 20, 2022. REUTERS / Feisal Omar
By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somalia has ended a deadly siege at a hotel in the capital Mogadishu that has seen more than 20 people killed and dozens of hostages freed, authorities said on Thursday. Sunday.
Elite armed forces in the Horn of Africa country have been battling al Qaeda-linked gunmen for 30 hours, after the jihadists opened fire and opened fire on the Hayat hotel on Friday night.
“We confirm that so far there have been 21 deaths and 117 injuries,” Health Minister Ali Haji told national broadcaster SNTV.
“There may be bodies that were not brought to the hospital but buried by relatives. The number of deaths and casualties is based on the number taken to hospitals,” the minister added.
Al Shabaab, a group linked to al Qaeda, which has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government for more than a decade, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
It wants to establish its own rules based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Friday’s attack at Hayat, a hotel popular with lawmakers and other government officials, was the first major incident since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.
“This is the worst hotel siege we have ever seen,” said Ahmed, a police captain to name only one.
The attackers shot and killed civilians who ran towards the wall of the hotel and the gate blew up after they attacked, Ahmed said, adding that they killed 10 security guards with guns and grenade.
Aden Ali, a survivor, told Reuters he was drinking a cup of tea at the hotel when he heard the first explosion. He ran towards the compound wall with the others as the warriors shot at them.
“We have many people on the run, more than a dozen. When I came out of the hotel, I could see eight of us. Maybe the rest were dead in the shooting,” Ali said.
Ali said another group of people in the hotel fled upstairs, where they were killed by militants, who first blew up the stairs to prevent their escape.
Security forces managed to free some people who locked themselves in their rooms on the upper floors after several hours, he said.
About 106 people have been released, including women and children, a senior police commander said. There was no immediate information on the number of attackers involved in the attack.
Residents were milling around the hotel that was bombed on Sunday, although another official earlier told Reuters that clean-up operations were still ongoing at the building, which has suffered heavy damage .
Mohamed Ali, an army officer at the scene, said: “We are still investigating the explosion of many plastic bags scattered around the hotel.