MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Al Qaeda-linked militants attacked a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, hijacking At least 12 people were killed 24 hours after authorities were still trying to free hostages, an intelligence official said Saturday.
On Friday night, attackers blew up the Hayat hotel with two car bombs before opening fire. Al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia have claimed responsibility.
“So far, we have confirmed 12 deaths, mostly civilians,” Mohammad, an intelligence official who spoke only on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Mohammad said the gunmen took unnamed hostages on the second floor of the building to prevent the authorities from using heavy weapons.
They also blew up the stairs to make it difficult to access some floors, he said.
State broadcaster Somali state television said authorities had taken control of 95 percent of the building as the siege entered its second day on Saturday night. The broadcaster did not provide an updated casualty count.
Those fighting the militants inside the hotel included Gaashan, a paramilitary force specializing in counterinsurgency, a former security official familiar with the force told Reuters.
The blast sent a huge plume of smoke over the busy junction on Friday night, and gunfire still crackled across the capital on Saturday night.
Government forces tried to wrest control of the hotel from militants on Friday night, witnesses said.
Much of the hotel was destroyed by the fighting, they said.
Friday’s attack was the first major incident of its kind since President Hassan Sheikh Mohammed took office in May.
The United States condemned the attack and said its “unwavering” support for counterterrorism efforts led by Somalia and the African Union. “
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement: “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, wish the injured a full recovery, and commend the security forces in Somalia.” .
Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist statements.
Al-Shabaab has fought to overthrow the Somali government for over 10 years. It wants to establish its own rules based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Hayat Hotel is a popular venue for legislators and other government officials. No question as to whether any of them Immediate information on someone under siege.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Washington; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Sam Holmes, Christina Fincher, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)