An official claimed Saturday that the Islamist militant attack on a popular hotel in the Somali capital resulted in the deaths of at least eight civilians, as security forces battled militants holed inside the hotel for hours.
It was reported by officials that several people, including children, had been rescued when fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab attacked the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening.
Reports of a heavy shootout within the hotel circulated as late as early Saturday afternoon, but facts were still hard to verify amidst the mayhem.
This is the worst attack on the Somali capital since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in May, ending months of political unrest.
“Terrorists were still trapped in a hotel room, but security officers were working to eliminate them. The majority of the population was saved, although eight individuals have been reported dead “Mohamed Abdikadir, a security force commander, disclosed this information to AFP.
Dozens of residents, including children, were rescued by security personnel after being trapped in the building.
On Saturday, al-Shabaab, which has been leading a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s shaky central government for 15 years, claimed credit for the attack and said it still controlled the hotel.
There are dozens of people waiting outside the four-story hotel to hear news about their loved ones.
An concerned Muudey Ali explained, “We have been seeking for a relative of mine who was trapped inside the hotel, and she was verified deceased along with six other individuals, two of whom I know.”
The government has yet to issue a statement regarding the attack.
The recent casualties from a mortar attack
On the same day, 20 people, including children, were injured as a barrage of mortar rounds landed in the seaside neighborhood of Hamar Jajab, according to the district commissioner, Mucawiye Muddey, who was quoted by AFP.
A newlywed couple and their new baby are among the seriously injured, as are a mother, father, and their three young children.
Nobody has publicly claimed responsibility for the assault so yet.
Witnesses to Friday’s hotel attack said they heard at least two large explosions as gunmen attacked the hotel, which is located in a busy area on the airport route and is frequented by government officials and ordinary Somalis.
Police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan had told reporters Friday that the initial blast was triggered by a suicide bomber who forced his way into the hotel with five other shooters.
There were casualties among the first responders, security personnel, and people who raced to the area following the initial explosion, according to eyewitnesses.
A brief statement published on a pro-Shabaab website claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that Shabaab fighters were “randomly shooting” at patrons within the hotel.
On Saturday, Abdiaziz Abu-Musab, a spokesman for al-Shabaab, said that the group’s troops were still in control of the building and that they had “caused severe deaths.”
While the Islamist terrorists Al-Shabaab were battling Somali soldiers in the country’s central and southern regions, the United States stated earlier this week that its forces had killed 13 of them in an air strike.
U.S. forces have launched many airstrikes against the insurgents in recent weeks.
To reverse Trump’s decision to remove most US personnel from Somalia, President Joe Biden authorized the re-establishment of a US troop presence there in May to assist local authorities in combating Al-Shabaab.
Recently, there have been strikes on the border between Somalia and Ethiopia carried out by Al-Shabaab members, causing some to worry that the jihadist group has adopted a new approach.
Somalia’s new president Mohamud stated last month that defeating Al-insurgency Shabaab’s would take more than a military response, but that his administration would deal with the group only when the moment was right.
Al-Shabaab fighters were forced out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union army, but the group still controls parts of countryside.
It has not ceased its fatal attacks on political, civilian, and military targets, with hotels and restaurants among the most common casualties.
Former party deputy leader and spokesman Muktar Robow was appointed religion minister earlier this month by new Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre.
The United States government had offered a $5 million bounty for Robow’s capture before he publicly defected from Al-Shabaab in August 2017.
When President Siad Barre’s military rule collapsed in 1991, the Horn of Africa country descended into turmoil.
After he was deposed, a civil war broke out, and Al-Shabaab rose to power.
In October 2017, a vehicle carrying explosives detonated in a busy business neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. The blast killed 512 people.
As well as the grinding jihadist war, Somalia is also in the grip of a severe drought that has pushed one million people from their homes and left the country in the shadow of famine, according to the United Nations.