At least 17 people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded in a gun and bomb attack by the al-Shabab armed group on an upscale beachfront hotel in Somalia’s capital, officials and witnesses have said.
The hotel’s siege on Sunday ended after a three-hour fierce gun battle between al-Shabab fighters and security forces which began with a suicide car bombing, government spokesman Ismael Mukhtar Omar told the dpa news agency.
Among the 12 victims were two government employees, three hotel security guards, four civilians and three unidentified people, police officer Ahmed Bashane was quoted as saying by the dpa.
Mukhtar told the Associated Press that all four assailants were killed by security forces.
The attack started in the afternoon with a powerful car bomb blast which blew off the security gates to the hotel. Then, gunmen ran inside and took hostages, mostly young men and women who were dining there, he said.
Ambulance sirens could be heard in the area which had a power outage when the attack started.
Military vehicles were later seen taking position around the hotel in the night, with officials initially concerned the darkness would prolong the siege.
Most guests of the four-storey seaside hotel could be rescued, but 28 wounded people were taken to hospitals, according to local ambulance services head Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan.
Witnesses confirmed the attack began with a heavy explosion and reported that people were running from the area as gunfire could be heard from the hotel, which is frequented by government officials, journalists and civil society activists.
“The blast was very heavy and I could see smoke in the area. There is chaos and people are fleeing from nearby buildings,” said witness Ali Sayid Adan.
Al-Shabab said they carried out the attack, according to a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The statement claimed its fighters “took control over the hotel” in the “martyrdom-seeking operation”.
Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of then-President Siad Barre’s military regime, leading to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of al-Shabab which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab was driven out of the capital in 2011, but its fighters continue to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.
Last week, four al-Shabab fighters held in Mogadishu’s central prison were killed in a shoot-out with security forces after they reportedly managed to get their hands on weapons within the facility.