Islamist militants stormed a hotel in the Somalia capital, sparking hours of a gunfight with security forces, killing at least 20 people, according to police and eyewitnesses.
In addition, at least 40 people were injured in the attack late Friday and security forces rescued several others, including children, from the scene at the popular Hyatt Hotel in Mogadishu.
The attack began with explosions outside the hotel before gunmen entered the building. Somali forces were still trying to end the siege of the hotel, nearly 24 hours after the attack began. Gunshots could still be heard on Saturday evening as security forces tried to hide the last of the gunmen on the top floor of the hotel.
The Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab, which has links with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest of its persistent attempts to strike locations visited by government officials. The attack on the hotel in Mogadishu is the first major terrorist attack since Somalia’s new leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamed took office in May.
The US embassy in Somalia said in a Twitter post that it “strongly condemns” the attack on Hayat. “We express our condolences to the families of the loved ones killed, wish the injured a full recovery, and pledge continued support for Somalia in holding the killers accountable and building on destroying others.” Said it. There was no immediate word on the identity of the victims, but many are believed to be civilians.