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Somalia hotel siege death toll rises to 21

#Somalia #hotel #siege #death #toll #rises

The death toll in a devastating 30-hour siege by al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has risen to 21, Health Minister Ali Haji Adan said on Sunday, as concerned citizens awaited news.

Rescuers have been trying to clear the wreckage of an al Qaeda-linked group’s gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat Hotel, which left parts of the building in ruins and trapped many feared inside the venue.

“The Ministry of Health has so far confirmed the deaths of 21 people and wounded 117 in the attack, which began Friday evening and lasted over a day,” Adan said.

On Sunday morning, the area around the hotel was quiet and the streets were blocked by a heavy security presence as rescue workers and bomb disposal experts tried to clear the site of explosives and clear debris.

The hotel building was badly damaged during the shootout between Somali forces and insurgents.

Some parts of it collapsed and many people desperately searched for their loved ones who were inside when the attack started.

Police Commissioner Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar told reporters on Sunday that “106 people, including children and women” were rescued by security forces during the siege, which ended around midnight.

As bullets and flames swept through the hotel, security forces searched the property to evacuate civilians, including three young children who were hiding in a toilet.

“The casualties occurred mainly in the early hours of the attack, after which security forces spent time rescuing people one by one, room by room,” Hijar said.

The attack was the largest in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in June and underscored the challenge of quelling the Islamist group’s 15-year insurgency.

– ‘tense’ –

Dozens of people gathered near the road leading to the hotel on Sunday morning, desperate for news of their family members, while security forces patrolled the area and would not let anyone through.

Businessman Muktar Adan, whose brother was staying at the hotel when the attack began, told AFP he was awaiting permission to enter the premises and search for his sibling.

“My brother was at the hotel the last time we heard from him but his phone is off now and we don’t know what to expect,” he said.

Said Nurov, who heard the attack, said he was very concerned for his friend who was a guest at the property.

“I hope… (he) is alive, he’s stayed at the hotel according to the latest information we got from his sister,” he told AFP, describing the mood as “tense.”

The hotel was a popular meeting place for government officials, and scores of people were inside when gunmen stormed the property.

Somalia’s allies, including the United States, Britain and Turkey, as well as the UN, have strongly condemned the attack. So does ATMIS, the African Union force tasked with helping the Somali armed forces assume primary responsibility for security by the end of 2024.

Earlier this month, Washington announced that its forces had killed 13 al-Shabaab operatives in an airstrike, the last since President Joe Biden ordered the restoration of a US troop presence in Somalia, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.

– twin explosions –

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

According to police, the attack began with an explosion caused by a suicide bomber who, along with gunmen, made their way into the hotel.

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

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu-Musab told the group’s Andalusian radio earlier on Saturday that its forces had “inflicted heavy casualties”.

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

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

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

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