At least 12 dead on second day of hotel siege in Somalia

At least 12 dead on second day of hotel siege in Somalia
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MOGADISHU, Aug 20 (Reuters) – At least 12 people were killed when al Qaeda-linked militants attacked a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, taking hostages that authorities were still struggling to free 24 hours later, a security official said on Saturday. intelligence.

The attackers stormed the Hayat hotel on Friday night with two car bombs before opening fire. Somali Al Shabaab insurgents claimed responsibility. read more

“So far we have confirmed the death of 12 people, mostly civilians,” Mohammed, an intelligence officer who gave only one name, told Reuters.

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The gunmen were holding an unknown number of hostages on the second floor of the building, Mohammed said, preventing authorities from using heavy weapons.

Stairs had also been bombed to make access to certain floors more difficult, he said.

As the siege entered its second day on Saturday night, authorities had secured 95% of the building, state broadcaster Somali National Television said. The broadcaster did not give an updated number of victims.

Among those fighting militants inside the hotel is Gaashan, a paramilitary force specializing in counter-insurgency, a former security official familiar with the force told Reuters.

The detonations sent huge plumes of smoke over the busy intersection on Friday night, and the sound of gunfire was still crackling across the capital on Saturday night.

Explosions were heard on Friday night as government forces tried to wrest control of the hotel from militants, witnesses said.

Large sections of the hotel were destroyed in the fighting, they said.

Friday’s attack was the first major incident of its kind since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the jihadist group’s statements.

Al Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government for more than 10 years. He wants to establish his own government based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The Hayat Hotel is a popular spot with legislators and other government officials. There was no immediate word on whether any of them had been caught up in the siege.

(This story corrects the source in paragraph 7 to make it clear that it is a former security officer speaking)

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Reporting by Abdi Sheikh Writing by Duncan Miriri Editing by Sam Holmes, Christina Fincher and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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