HomeAustralia13 dead as Somali forces battle Al-Shabaab at besieged hotel

13 dead as Somali forces battle Al-Shabaab at besieged hotel

Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected by parliament in May

At least 13 civilians have been killed and dozens wounded in an Islamist militant attack on a hotel in the Somali capital, officials said Saturday, as security forces battled gunmen barricaded inside many hours after the siege began.

Fighters from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening in a hail of gunfire and bomb blasts.

Sporadic gunfire and loud explosions could be heard into Saturday afternoon, but details remain difficult to verify in the chaos.

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Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency for 15 years against the fragile government in the Horn of Africa nation, has claimed responsibility.

“The security forces rescued dozens of civilians including children who were trapped in the building.”

“The security forces will announce any moment that the siege is over, it took a long time because of the complexity of the rescue mission,” Duale told AFP.

– Mortar attack injures newly-weds –

“We have been looking for a relative of mine who was trapped inside the hotel, she was confirmed dead together with six other people, two of them I know,” said an anxious Muudey Ali.

In another incident, a volley of mortar shells hit the seafront neighbourhood of Hamar Jajab, district commissioner Mucawiye Muddey told AFP.

There was no immediate claim for that attack.

Police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan had told reporters Friday the initial blast was caused by a suicide bomber who forced his way into the hotel with other gunmen.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility in a brief statement on a pro-Shabaab website, saying its fighters were carrying out “random shooting” inside the hotel.

Al-Shabaab fighters have carried out several attacks in Somalia since Mohamud took office and have also launched launched strikes on the Ethiopia border, raising concerns about a possible new strategy.

– Decades of chaos –

Al-Shabaab was driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force, but it still controls swathes of countryside and continues to launch deadly strikes on political, civilian and military targets, with popular hotels and restaurants often hit.

Robow, 53, defected from Al-Shabaab in 2017, with the US government at one point offering a $5 million bounty for his capture.

His ouster was followed by a civil war and the ascendancy of Al-Shabaab.

As well as the insurgency, Somalia is also in the grip of a devastating drought that has driven one million people from their homes and left the country in the shadow of famine, according to the United Nations.

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