According to military sources, Somali forces have successfully concluded a 30-hour siege of a hotel in the country’s capital city of Mogadishu. Security forces have also successfully cleared the hotel of explosives that were set by fighters within the facility. At least thirteen civilians were murdered, and dozens more were injured, as a result of the siege, which started when members of the al-Shabab armed group launched a gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat Hotel on Friday evening.
Under the condition of anonymity, a commander disclosed to the AFP news agency that “the security forces have finally terminated the siege and the shooters are dead.” Additionally, the commander stated that “we have received no incoming gunfire from the building in the previous hour.” He didn’t say how many civilians or security workers had been killed or how many al-Shabab fighters had been killed. Instead, he said that the government would hold a press briefing on Sunday morning.
He went on to say that it was still necessary to sweep the structure for any explosives that may have been planted inside. The claim by AFP came a few hours after the state-run Somali National News Agency (SONNA) announced on its Twitter account that the majority of the building had been captured by the security forces. SONNA distributed a photograph that showed a soldier trapped inside a hotel room that had been damaged by debris and explosions. Another photograph showed a soldier being hoisted by a crane to the upper floors of a structure that had three levels.
According to AFP, security personnel stormed the hotel late on Saturday night armed with heavy weaponry in an effort to flush out the attackers who were holed up inside the building for a second consecutive night. During the shelling by security forces, people who were watching from the roof of another building told a news agency that they saw flames rip through the hotel. Additionally, significant explosions and gunshots were reported during this time.
When the attack began, there were dozens of individuals who were trapped inside the hotel. Although officials reported that dozens of people, including children, had been freed, it is unknown how many people were still trapped inside when the siege was finally over. According to a statement made to AFP by a security official named Mohamed Abdikadir earlier, the number of civilians whose deaths have been confirmed stands at 13, while a police officer named Ibrahim Duale put the number at more than 10.
One woman named Hayat Ali reported that three young relatives, ranging in age from four to seven, were found by security forces hiding in a hotel toilet and were in a state of shock when they were discovered. However, they were later reunited with their families. Another person who survived the attack told AFP that on the day of the attack, he and some coworkers had just finished their evening prayers and were having tea in one of the open areas of the hotel when they heard the initial blasts.
“I was able to escape from the shooters by running to a nearby exit gate,” Hussein Ali explained. “The attackers opened fire, and I could hear the gunfire behind me, but praise be to God, we were able to flee.”
The attack was the most major to hit Mogadishu since Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May, and it comes at a time when government forces have ramped up their operations against Al-Shabab. More than ten years ago, an armed group with ties to al-Qaeda that has since claimed responsibility for the siege has been engaged in a conflict with the Somali government in an effort to overthrow it. Its ultimate goal is to establish its own rule, which will be based on a literal reading of Islamic law.