Aug. 21 (UPI) — Somalia security forces said Sunday they ended a siege on the upscale Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu that killed more than 20 people and injured more than 110 more.
Al-Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that had taken responsibility for the siege, stormed the hotel Friday evening with gunfire and explosions. They eventually took hostages as the dilemma continued to unfold.
Police Major Yasin Haji told CNN that al-Shabab used those in the hotel as “human shields” but managed to rescue at least 106 during the standoff. Haji said security forces initially cleared the first and top floors of the hotel while al-Shabab held hostages on the middle two floors.
Police said 30 people were killed in the incident, but the Somali Minister of Health said Sunday that 21 people were killed and 117 injured. The minister said relatives of some victims may have taken their bodies directly to be buried and not connected to the death toll, that came from hospital accounts.
The Hayat Hotel is popular with lawmakers and other government officials. The siege is believed to be the longest by the militant group since it was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011.
The United States has returned to Somalia militarily under President Joe Biden after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the country. An airstrike by the U.S. military killed 13 al-Shabab members.
Al-Shabab has waged war against Somalia’s fragile central government for about 15 years and has become one of al-Qaeda’s most enduring affiliates after pledging allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2011.