Security forces in Somalia have ended a six-hour siege on a beachside hotel by Islamist militants, which has left nine people dead and 10 wounded.
Al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack, which began on Friday night.
The Somalia-based extremist group have been waging an insurgency against the government for more than 15 years, and are known for carrying out suicide bombings and attacks on hotels which tend to host high-ranking Somali and foreign officials.
‘Six civilians were martyred in the attack… and 10 others were wounded,’ the Somali Police Force said in a statement.
‘Three brave members of the security forces were martyred during the rescue operation.’
The siege started at around 8pm on Friday night, when seven attackers stormed the Pearl Beach hotel, a popular spot at Lido Beach along Mogadishu’s coastline.
It ended at around 2 am, police said, after security forces killed all the militants during a fierce gun battle.
‘The security forces managed to rescue 84 people including women and children and elderly people,’ the police statement added.
Witnesses reported hearing an explosion followed by heavy gunfire at the hotel.
‘I was near the Pearl Beach restaurant when (a) heavy explosion occurred in front of the building,” Abdirahim Ali, a witness, told AFP news agency.
‘I have managed to flee but there was heavy gunfire afterwards and the security forces rushed to the area.’
Yaasin Nur was at the restaurant and told AFP it was ‘full of people as it was recently renovated’.
‘I’m worried because there are several of my colleagues who went there and two of them are not responding to their phones,’ he said.
The attack came only days after al-Shabab fighters killed 54 Ugandan peacekeepers in an attack on an African Union base in the southern town of Bulo Marer.
Last year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched an ‘all-out war’ against Al-Shabab, rallying Somalis to help flush out members of the militant group he described as ‘bedbugs.’
His pledge came after 21 people were killed and 117 others were wounded in an Al-Shabab siege on a Mogadishu hotel in August 2022 that lasted 30 hours.
The UN said in November that at least 613 civilians had been killed and 948 injured in violence in Somalia last year, mostly caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) attributed to Al-Shabab.
The figures were the highest since 2017 and an increase of more than 30 percent from the previous year.
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