Security forces in the Somali capital fought for several hours on Sunday before clearing a hotel of Islamist al Shabaab gunmen who had stormed the building after two bombs ripped into it, police and witnesses said. At least 13 people were killed.
Al Shabaab, which has frequently launched attacks in Mogadishu in its bid to topple the Western-backed government, said it was behind the assault on the Sahafi hotel, where government officials and lawmakers stay.
“Mujahideen (fighters) entered and took over Sahafi hotel where enemies lived,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
The incident mirrored tactics used before by al Shabaab, in which it detonates bombs to break through security at targets and then sends in fighters.
The government is battling to rebuild the Horn of Africa nation after more than two decades of conflict. Al Shabaab ruled much of Somalia until 2011, when it was driven out of Mogadishu by African and Somali troops. It remains a potent force.
Major Ahmed Nur, a police officer, told Reuters that a car bomb rammed the entrance to the hotel and was followed by a second blast, which a security guard said was another vehicle bomb.
After a gun battle lasting several hours, he said the hotel had been cleared of gunmen. “The hotel has been entirely secured,” Nur said, putting the death toll so far at 13.
Police said those killed included the hotel owner, a lawmaker, a former senior military commander, a radio journalist and other civilians.