30 rescued from Nasa-Hablod Hotel amid standoff between militants and security forces.
A coordinated attack involving a suicide truck bomb at a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital killed at least 23 people on Saturday and wounded more than 30, police said, as security forces continued to exchange gunfire with attackers inside the building.
Two more blasts were heard, one when an attacker detonated a suicide vest.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, Capt. Mohamed Hussein said 30 people, including a government minister, were rescued from the Nasa-Hablod Hotel as heavy gunfire continued in the standoff between extremists and security forces.
Three of the five attackers were killed, Hussein said. The others hurled grenades and cut off the building’s electricity as night fell.
Saturday’s blasts came two weeks after more than 358 +56 missen people were killed in a massive truck bombing on a busy Mogadishu street in the country’s worst-ever attack.
Al-Shabaab, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, quickly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack and said its fighters were inside the hotel.
Among the dead were a mother and three children, including a baby, all shot in the head, Hussein said. Other victims included a senior Somali police colonel, a former lawmaker and a former government minister. Footage from the scene showed twisted vehicles and nearby buildings with only walls left standing.
Mohamed Dek Haji said he survived the bombing as he walked beside a parked car that was largely destroyed by the explosion. He said he saw at least three armed men in military uniforms running toward the hotel after the suicide bombing at its gate.
“I think they were al-Shabaab fighters who were trying to storm the hotel,” he said, lying on a hospital bed.
He suffered small injuries on his shoulder and skull from flying glass.
‘State of war’
Witnesses in some previous attacks have said al-Shabaab fighters disguised themselves by wearing military uniforms.
Al-Shabaab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu. It has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago; experts have said the death toll was so high that the group hesitated to further anger Somali citizens as its pursues its insurgency.
Since the blast two weeks ago, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has visited regional countries to seek more support for the fight against the extremist group, vowing a “state of war.” He also faces the challenge of pulling together regional powers inside his long-fractured country, where the federal government is only now trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities.
A 22,000-strong multinational African Union force in Somalia is expected to withdraw its forces and hand over the country’s security to the Somali military by the end of 2020. U.S. military officials and others in recent months have expressed concern that Somali forces are not yet ready.