Somali federal police said Sunday that security forces had ended the Mogadishu hotel siege by the al-Qaida-affiliated militant group al-Shabab after nearly 30 hours of operations. Officials say more than 20 people were killed in the attack.
At a press conference in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Sunday, Somali police chief General Abdi Hassan Hijar said that casualties include civilians and security personnel who were killed in the al-Shabab complex attack on the Hayat hotel in the center of the city, near Somalia’s criminal investigation department headquarters.
He said the main focus of the security forces was rescuing trapped civilians after al-Shabab fighters targeted the hotel with explosions and stormed the building, followed by a firefight that lasted nearly 30 hours.
He added that the security agencies involved in the operations who ended the siege at midnight rescued more than 106 people, including women and children.
He says he wants to share with Somali people in the country and abroad that the operations at Hayat hotel ended at midnight. During the operations, he said, the security forces focused on rescuing and securing the civilians trapped in the hotel, and more than 106 people, including children and women were rescued. It is shocking that innocent civilians have died there.
Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan, the founder of Aamin Ambulance, part of the emergency team involved in taking civilians to hospitals, told VOA by phone Sunday that despite difficulties, their team was able to transport wounded people to hospitals for treatment.
He says Aamin picked up 11 wounded people and seven bodies, including men and women.
The al-Qaida-linked Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on Hayat hotel in Mogadishu and claimed it had killed 63 people and wounded 107 others.
The attack was met with international condemnation.
The United States said it strongly condemned the attack.
A statement issued by the U.S. State Department expresses “heartfelt” condolences to the families who lost loved ones, wishes a full recovery to those injured, and commends Somalia’s security forces.
The statement added that the United States remains steadfast in its support of Somali and African Union-led efforts to counter terrorism and build a secure and prosperous future for the people of Somalia.
The Intergovernmental Authority for Development in Eastern Africa, or IGAD, also condemned the attack.
Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, spokesperson for the executive secretary of IGAD, told VOA that the attack was a “terrible disaster” for the entire region.
“Look, this is a terrible disaster, not just for Somalia, but the entire IGAD region is in mourning. Our executive secretary did condemn this heinous criminal act in the strongest terms possible. Acts of terror are a threat to both the national, regional and global stability, and must be defeated collectively and we will be working closely with all the regional actors, international partners and of course with the government and the people of Somalia to defeat terrorism collectively,” said Sheekh.
This was the first deadly attack by al-Shabab on an upscale target in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took office in May.
The attack also was the longest hotel siege in Somalia since al-Shabab started its insurgency more than 15 years ago.