30 killed as Somali forces end Al Shabaab siege at Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu

Al Shabaab fighters launched a bomb attack on the well-known Hayat Hotel which resulted in at least 30 civilian deaths and 50 injuries, according to security and ambulance officials.

Specialized security forces, including Alpha Group and Cheetah (Haramcad), used heavy artillery and explosives to flush out the remaining Al Shabaab fighters. A police official said that the hotel guests were used as “human shields”.

Ali Haji, Somalia’s minister of health said that 21 people had been confirmed dead, but hospital officials and first responders expect it to be higher. They also expect the death toll to rise as bodies are pulled from the debris and rooftop. He added that only the bodies brought to the hospital have been recorded in the official tally.

“It is possible there were corpses that were not taken to hospitals but buried by relatives. The death toll and the casualties are based on the figure taken to hospitals,” the minister added.
Over 106 guests were rescued from the hotel during the two-day siege, according to security officials.

The Hayat, located near the KM4 roundabout, is a popular hangout for civilians, federal government civil servants and members of the political establishment.

The international community roundly condemned Al Shabaab for the attack and sent their condolences to the victims.

In a statement to the group’s media affiliates, the armed group claimed to have held hostages during the siege, including government and security officials.

This attack was the first significant attack on a soft target in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in late May. 

The US has recently conducted several air raids on militants, including an air strike that killed 13 Al Shabaab fighters in Somalia’s central-southern region.

Last month, Mohamud stated that defeating the Al Shabaab rebels would necessitate more than just a military approach, and he proposed the unprecedented idea of direct talks with Al Shabaab.

Somalia’s prime minister Hamza Abdi Barre had named former Al-Shabaab group co-founder and spokesperson Muktar Robow as a minister in the country’s new cabinet, a move that could either help strengthen the fight against the rebels or provoke clan clashes.

Barre said in televised remarks that Robow, who once had a $5 million US bounty on his head before he split from Al-Shabaab in 2013, would serve as the minister in charge of religion.

Robow publicly denounced his membership Al-Shabaab in 2017 and pledged his support to Somali authorities. He had earlier left the rebel group after a disagreement with its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in 2013. Godane was killed in a US drone strike the following year.

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