At least 13 killed in jihadist attack on a hotel in Somalia’s capital

Somali security forces were still trying to end a bloody attack on a hotel in Mogadishu on Saturday by jihadist fighters that authorities say has killed at least 13 civilians since the assault began more than 24 years ago. hours.

Jihadis from Al Shabab, a group linked to Al Qaeda, stormed Mogadishu’s popular Hayat hotel on Friday night with gunfire and explosions and have been barricaded inside ever since.

Dozens of people were trapped when the attack began and although authorities said dozens had been rescued, including children, it is not known how many people remain inside.

Sporadic gunshots and explosions could be heard in the vicinity of the complex. Security forces have erected a wide security cordon around the hotel area and blocked some roads.

This is the main attack in Mogadishu since the election in May of the new Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has not yet spoken publicly about the attack.

– Children hiding in toilets –

Al Shabab, a group linked to the Al Qaeda network that has been fighting the government of this country in the Horn of Africa for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday in related media.

Abdiaziz Abu Musab, spokesman for the group, assured in statements to Andalus radio that his forces still controlled the hotel and that the attack had “caused numerous casualties.”

One woman, Hayat Ali, said security forces found three children aged between four and seven, relatives of hers, hiding in a hotel bathroom in shock, after which they were reunited with their family.

Dozens of people gathered around the hotel, usually frequented by government officials and the army, to try to find out what had happened with family or friends.

Another survivor told AFP that he and some colleagues were praying the night before having tea in one of the hotel’s open spaces when they heard the first explosions.

“I managed to run to a nearby exit gate away from the attackers,” Hussein Ali told AFP. “They started shooting and I could hear the shots behind me, but thank God (…) we managed to escape. Those who preferred to take refuge inside the building, including one of my colleagues, died,” he added.

On Saturday, another attack left 20 injured, including children, by a salvo of mortar shells, which hit the Hamar Jajab neighborhood, located on the seafront, district commissioner Mucawiye Muddey told AFP.

That attack has not yet been claimed. “Among the seriously injured are a newlywed, her boyfriend and a family of three children, a mother and her father,” she said.

Mohamed Abdirahman Jama, an official at Mogadishu’s main hospital, said at least 40 people injured in the two attacks were being treated at his facility.

– Soon for a negotiation –

These attacks come after the United States announced on Wednesday that it had killed 13 al-Shabab militants in an air assault fighting against Somali regular forces around Teedaan, some 300 km north of Mogadishu and close to the border with Ethiopia.

President Joe Biden decided in May to restore the US military presence in Somalia, reversing the decision of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had ordered the withdrawal of troops.

Jihadists have carried out attacks in recent weeks along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, raising questions about a possible change in strategy.

Al Shabab militants were expelled from Mogadishu in 2011 by an African Union force, but still control large swaths of territory and are capable of deadly action against civilian and military targets.

The new president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said last month that the militiamen could not be defeated with the sole recourse of military force, although he specified that it was not yet time to face a negotiation.

In addition to the insurgency, Somalia is also suffering from a devastating drought that has driven a million people from their homes and left the country threatened by famine, according to the United Nations.

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