At least 17 dead as Al-Shabaab siege at Somali hotel ends


March 27, 2015: Somali soldiers take position after a bomb that was detonated at the gate of one of Mogadishu’s most popular hotel. (AP)

Somali government officials said they have taken control of the hotel where extremist gunmen were holed up for more than 12 hours in an attack that left 17 people dead.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said Saturday the gunfire had subsided and security agents have accessed the whole building. Hussein said earlier the gunmen were believed to have occupied the third and fourth floor of the Maka Al-Mukarramah hotel in the capital Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab extremists started the deadly attack Friday by exploding a car bomb at the gate and then mounted a siege of the compound frequented by government officials.

Somali special forces stormed the hotel where the group was holed up with numerous civilians still trapped inside.

One bloodied government soldier was dragged out by colleagues and put in an ambulance. A witness who made it safely outside the hotel after jumping from a window said the gunmen were killing anyone they could find. 

Al-Shabaab claimed credit for the attack, in which at least a dozen were injured and the death toll was expected to rise. An unknown number of people were trapped in the hotel, although authorities did not characterize them as hostages.

“We are behind the Hotel Maka Al Mukaram attack and fighting is still going on inside the hotel,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.

The attack came a day after an Al-Shabaab top commander and three other suspected militants were captured by Somali security forces Thursday, a Somali senior intelligence officer told African news site News24

Security forces raided an Al-Shabaab hideout in northern Mogadishu, seizing weapons, ammunition, and explosives.

Although the commander has not yet been identified, an investigation is underway. Authorities believe the commander masterminded several suicide attacks or assassinations in Mogadishu in recent months, an anonymous source said.

Al-Shabaab—which believes in the strictest application of Islamic law– has killed dozens of people in suicide attacks in Mogadishu this year. The Maka Al Mukaram Hotel has been the site of several deadly car bombings in recent years. Two weeks ago, a car bomb exploded outside the hotel, killing two people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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