Al Shabab attack on Mogadishu hotel ends with 17 dead

Twelve-hour standoff following suicide bombing ends with all attackers killed.

Somali soldiers take position outside the Maka Al Mukarama hotel after an attack by Al Shabaab militants in Mogadishu on March 28, 2015. Feisal Omar / Reuters
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MOGADISHU // At least 17 people died and dozens were wounded in an attack on a hotel in the Somali capital by Al Shabab.

Troops took full control of the Maka Al Mukarramah hotel on Saturday, more than 12 hours after gunmen from the Al Qaeda-linked group stormed and occupied the building following a suicide bombing.

“The operation has ended. We have taken full control of the hotel,” said police Captain Mohamed Hussein.

He said security forces found four more bodies in the hotel on Saturday, in addition to the nine dead on Friday. Four more people died in the hospital, according to a doctor at Madina hospital in Mogadishu. An official of Mogadishu’s ambulance service said 28 people were wounded.

There was no immediate indication of how many of the dead were attackers, all of whom were killed according to Capt Hussein.

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the country’s ambassador to Switzerland and permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, Yusuf Bari-Bari was among those killed.

Al Shabab, which has carried out many attacks in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the assault on the hotel, which is popular with Somali government officials and foreigners.

The extremist group controlled much of Mogadishu between 2007 and 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces.

The attack started around 4pm Friday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car at the gate of the hotel. Gunmen then quickly moved in.

Hours later, the militants were still holed up in the hotel’s dark corridors and rooms. Sporadic gunfire could be heard, but it appeared that the security forces waited until daybreak before trying again to dislodge the militants.

The terrorists are said to have then stormed into the first, second and third floors of the hotel where rooms are located and held several people hostage.

The attack was condemned by the African Union mission to Somalia in which troops from several African countries support Somalia’s weak government.

Al Shabab routinely carries out suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in Mogadishu, the seat of Somalia’s western-backed government, often targeting government troops, members of parliament and foreigners.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, Al Shabab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in the East African region.

The group has carried out attacks in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose military is part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak government from al-Shabab insurgency.

At least 67 people were killed in a September 2013 attack by Al Shabab on a mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.