Four dead at Mogadishu hotel as Somali forces battle Al Shabab militants

Extremists laid siege to venue near presidential palace

The skyline of Mogadishu, where security forces were battling militants holed up in a hotel. Reuters
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At least four people have been killed in a continuing battle between Somali forces and Al Shabab militants who laid siege overnight to a hotel in Mogadishu, a security official said on Monday.

Militants were holed up in the Villa Rose, near the presidential palace, early on Monday after Al Shabab stormed it.

"The terrorist gunmen are trapped inside a room in the building and the security forces are about to end the siege very soon," security official Mohamed Dahir told AFP. "So far, we have confirmed the death of four people."

"Several other people were wounded, including government officials."

Gunfire had been heard from inside the popular hotel earlier on Monday, a nearby resident and a police officer told Reuters.

“There is still heavy gunfire inside the hotel and we hear explosions from time to time … we are still in our houses since last night, when the siege started,” said Ismail Haaji, who lives near the hotel.

The Al Qaeda-linked militants reportedly used guns and explosives. A police officer said some government officials escaped from the windows.

The hotel in a secure central part of the city is frequented by politicians and public officials.

Police said late on Sunday that government forces were seeking to “eliminate” armed militants inside the Villa Rose after attacking the hotel in a hail of bullets and explosions.

National police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said many civilians and officials had been rescued, but did not offer further details.

Witnesses described two huge explosions followed by gunfire that sent people fleeing the scene in Bondhere district. The hotel is a few streets from the office of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

All routes leading to the hotel have been cordoned off by security forces, according to witnesses.

Al Shabab, a militant group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda and has been trying to overthrow Somalia's central government for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, a 20,000-strong military force drawn from across the continent, praised the “swift” security response to the attack late on Sunday.

On its website, the Villa Rose describes itself as the “most secure lodging arrangement in Mogadishu” with metal detectors and a high perimeter wall.

Attacks on civilians

Al Shabab has intensified attacks against civilian and military targets as Somalia's newly-elected government has pursued a policy of “all-out war” against the Islamists.

The security forces, backed by local militias, ATMIS and US air strikes, have driven Al Shabab from central parts of the country in recent months, but the offensive has led to retribution.

On October 29, two cars packed with explosives blew up minutes apart in Mogadishu followed by gunfire. At least 121 people were killed and 333 injured.

It was the deadliest attack in the fragile Horn of Africa nation in five years.

At least 21 people were killed in a siege on a Mogadishu hotel in August that lasted 30 hours before security forces could take control from the militants inside.

The UN said earlier this month that at least 613 civilians had been killed and 948 injured in violence this year in Somalia, mostly caused by improvised explosive devices attributed to Al Shabab.

The figures were the highest since 2017 and a rise of more than 30 per cent from last year.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 8:32 AM