MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali forces have ended a deadly siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in the capital Mogadishu that lasted about 30 hours, a security commander told AFP around midnight Saturday.
“The security forces have ended the siege now and the gunmen are dead, we’ve had no incoming gunfire from the building in the past hour,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The official gave no information about the total number of casualties in the attack on the Hayat Hotel, or how many Al-Shabaab fighters had been killed, adding that the government would give a press briefing about the bloody attack on Sunday morning.
The hotel has been destroyed following a bombardment by security forces to eliminate the assailants who were holed up there, but the official said the building needed to be cleared of any explosives that may have been planted.
Earlier, a security official told the Associated Press that at least 20 civilians had been killed, while a hospital director said his facility was treating 40 wounded people from the hotel assault and a separate mortar attack in another part of the city.
“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,” eyewitness Abdullahi Hussein told the AP 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 that on his way to safety he saw “several bodies lying on the ground outside hotel reception.”
In a Twitter post, the US 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.
Al-Shabaab 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-Shabaab is slowly making a comeback from the rural areas to which it retreated, defying the presence of African Union peacekeepers as well as US drone strikes targeting its fighters.
The fighters 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.