Several dead as Somali forces battle Al-Shabaab at besieged hotel

At least eight civilians have been killed in a militant attack on a popular hotel in the Somali capital, an official said on Aug. 20, as security forces continued to battle gunmen barricaded inside.

Fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening in a hail of gunfire and bomb blasts, trapping scores of people.

Sporadic gunfire and loud explosions could still be heard early Saturday.
It is the biggest attack in Mogadishu since Somalia's new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May after many months of political instability.

"The security forces continued to neutralise terrorists who have been cordoned inside a room in the hotel building. Most of the people were rescued but at least eight civilians were confirmed dead so far," security commander Mohamed Abdikadir told AFP.

"The security forces rescued dozens of civilians including children who were trapped in the building."
Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency against Somalia's fragile central government for about 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was still in control of the hotel Saturday.
Dozens of people have been gathering outside the four-storey hotel to discover the fate of loved ones.
"We have been looking for a relative of mine who was trapped inside the hotel, she was confirmed dead together with six other people, two of them I know," said one anxious witness Muudey Ali.
There has been no official comment from the government about the attack.

Witnesses reported at least two large explosions as the gunmen stormed the hotel, a popular spot frequented by government officials and ordinary Somalis in a bustling area on the airport road.

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