Somalia hotel siege: 21 people killed after Al Shabab attack

Women and children among 106 people rescued by security forces, police and military said on Sunday

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Somali forces ended a hotel siege in the Somali capital on Sunday with the rescue of 106 hostages.

The death toll from the 30-hour siege by Al Qaeda-linked militants in Mogadishu rose to 21 on Sunday, Health Minister Ali Haji Adan said.

Somalis were anxiously awaiting updates on missing relatives as emergency workers cleared the area following the attack by Al Shabab terrorists at the Hayat Hotel.

Mr Adan said 117 people were wounded in the siege, which began on Friday evening.

Police commissioner Abdi Hijar said on Sunday that children and women were among the 106 rescued during the siege, which ended at about midnight.

As bullets and bombs destroyed parts of the hotel, security forces searched for civilians, finding three young children who had hidden inside a toilet.

"The casualties mostly happened in the early hours of the attack, after that security forces spent time rescuing people individually and room by room," Mr Hijar said.

Mohamed Ali, a military officer at the scene, told Reuters that “we are still investigating the explosions of many plastic bags that have been scattered around the hotel".

French news agency AFP reported that all the gunmen had been killed, citing a security commander.

The hotel took heavy damage during the gun and bomb attack, with parts of the building collapsing in the battle.

It left many people to worry about loved ones who may have been trapped in the rubble, with dozens gathering near the hotel on Sunday morning to await news.

Businessman Muktar Adan told AFP his brother was inside the hotel when the attack started.

He said he was waiting for permission to enter the premises and look for his sibling.

"My brother was inside the hotel the last time we heard from him, but his phone is switched off now and we don't know what to expect," he said.

Police and military officials comb the scene of an Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab group militant attack in Mogadishu. Reuters

Said Nurow said he was worried about his friend who was a guest at the property.

"I hope... (he) is alive, he stayed in the hotel according to the last information we got from his sister," he said.

Friday's attack was the first such major incident since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.

Al Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the attack, has been fighting to topple the Somali government for more than a decade.

The hotel was used as a regular meeting spot for government officials. Dozens of people were inside when gunmen stormed the property.

Somalia's allies, including the US, UK and Turkey, as well as the UN, have strongly condemned the attack. The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, the African Union force helping Somali forces to take over primary responsibility for security by the end of 2024, did likewise.

Earlier this month, Washington announced its forces had killed 13 Al Shabab operatives in an air strike. This was the latest strike since President Joe Biden ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Somali Police Commissioner Gen Abdi Hijar announces the end of a deadly 30-hour siege by Al Shabab extremists at Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu. AFP

Mr Mohamud said last month that ending the insurrection required more than a military approach, but that his government would negotiate with the group only when the time was right.

Police said the attack began with a blast caused by a suicide bomber who forced his way into the hotel along with gunmen.

Minutes later, a second explosion struck as rescuers, security forces and civilians rushed to help the injured, witnesses said.

Al Shabab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu-Musab told the group's Andalus radio earlier on Saturday that its forces had "inflicted heavy casualties".

Al Shabab has carried out several attacks in Somalia since Mr Mohamud took office, and last month launched strikes on the Ethiopian border.

The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011. However, they still control parts of countryside and retain the ability to launch deadly strikes, often attacking hotels and restaurants.

The deadliest attack occurred in October 2017 when a lorry packed with explosives blew up in Mogadishu, killing 512 people.

Updated: August 22, 2022, 5:38 AM