An al Qaeda-linked group attacked and seized a popular hotel in the Somali capital on Friday evening. At least 12 people are confirmed to have been killed and hostages have been taken. The authorities have been battling to recapture the building and free the hostages into Saturday afternoon.
The attackers used two car bombs to force their way into the Hayat Hotel. Dozens of guests and staff managed to escape. According to the testimonies they have given to the authorities, at least 12 people, most of them civilians, have been killed. An unknown number of people have been taken hostage, preventing authorities from using heavy weapons. They are being held on the second floor of the facility, and the terrorists blasted the stairs to make it harder to access certain floors.
The authorities and the terrorists continued to exchange fire as of Saturday afternoon. Large explosions have been heard, and plumes of smoke are rising over the hotel.
“We could see huge smoke coming out from the hotel, the Hayat hotel. There were an estimated five big explosions and then there was gunfire,” said Abdalle Mumin, a local journalist. He also said that the loved ones of people still trapped or unaccounted for have gathered outside the hotel.
Dr Mohamed Abdirahman Jama, told the AFP news agency that at least 40 people wounded in the hotel attack and a separate mortar strike on another area of the capital were being treated in a hospital where he works.
“There are a lot of efforts going, the ambulance, the firefighters, the police, everyone on standby trying to save what they can from the scene, but the scene is very difficult to be accessed because civilians, relatives to whom we have been talking are saying that their loved ones are still trapped,” said Dr Jama. “There are also reports of dead bodies lying inside the hotel, but no one can manage to get in.”
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab jihadists have admitted to the responsibility for the attack on the website. The group have been fighting to topple the Somali government for more than 10 years in order to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The group controls much of southern and central Somalia.
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