At least 20 people were killed in an hours-long gunfight between Islamic militants and security forces after they attacked a hotel in the capital of Somalia, according to police and witnesses. At least 40 people were also hurt in the late-night attack on Friday, while security personnel pulled many more, including children, away from the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, they reported on Saturday.
Before the shooters entered the premises, there were explosions outside the hotel. Nearly 24 hours after the attack began, Somali forces were still attempting to end the hotel siege. On Saturday evening, gunfire could still be heard as security personnel worked to apprehend the final shooters who were believed to be hiding on the hotel’s top floor.
The latest of its repeated attempts to attack locations frequented by government officials, the attack was claimed by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic extremist group al-Shabab. Since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud became Somalia’s new president in May, the hotel attack represents the city’s first significant terrorist incident.
The American Embassy in Somalia expressed its “strong condemnation” of the attack on the Hayat in a tweet. “We vow continuous support for #Somalia to hold criminals accountable & build when others destroy,” it read. “We send sympathies to the families of loved ones lost. We hope for a full recovery for the injured. Although the identity of the victims has not yet been confirmed, many are thought to be civilians.