Armed forces battled militants for 30 hours from Friday night at Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu
Security forces and others walk past the damaged Hayat Hotel in the capital Mogadishu. —PA
Security forces have ended a siege by al-Qaeda-linked militants at a hotel in the Somali capital in which more than 20 people were killed and dozens injured, authorities said on Sunday.
Dozens of people who were taken hostage during the clash at Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu have been released.
The elite armed forces battled the militants for 30 hours from Friday night after the attackers blew their way into the hotel, which is popular with lawmakers and other government officials.
“We have so far confirmed 21 dead and 117 others injured,” health minister Ali Haji told national broadcaster SNTV.
“It is possible that there were corpses that were not taken to hospitals but buried by relatives. The number of dead and victims is based on the figure taken to hospitals,” the minister added.
Three assailants were shot dead during the military operation to end the siege, said Hassan, a police captain who gave only one name.
A fourth was shot dead in the area on Sunday morning as he tried to blend in with the civilian population, Hassan said, adding that the exact number of assailants was still unclear.
Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab, which has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the government of the Horn of Africa country, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Friday’s attack at the Hayat was the first major incident since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.
The assailants shot and killed civilians who fled towards the wall of the hotel compound and its door blown after the knock, said a police captain who gave only Ahmed’s name, adding that they had killed 10 security personnel with firearms and grenades.
Aden Ali, a survivor, told Reuters he was having a cup of tea at the hotel when he heard the first explosion. He ran towards the compound wall with others as the militants fired on them.
“We were many on the run, more than ten. When I came out of the hotel, I could see eight of us. Maybe the others died in the shooting,” Ali said.
Another group of people in the hotel fled to an upper floor, where they were killed by the militants who first blew up the stairs to prevent escape, Ali said.
Security forces managed to free some of those who locked themselves in their upper-floor rooms after several hours, he said.
Some 106 people have been released, including women and children, a senior police official said.
Residents crowded around the bombed-out hotel on Sunday. The building was heavily damaged.
“We are still investigating the explosions of numerous plastic bags that were scattered around the hotel,” said Mohamed Ali, a military officer at the scene.