Gunmen storm hotel in Somalia’s capital, killing 20

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamic militants stormed a hotel in the Somali capital, engaging in an hour-long firefight with security forces that left at least 20 dead, according to police and witnesses.

Additionally, at least 40 people were injured in Friday night’s attack and security forces rescued scores of others, including children, from the scene of Mogadishu’s notorious Hayat hotel, they said on Saturday.

The attack began with explosions outside the hotel before the gunmen entered the building.

Somali forces were still trying to end the siege of the hotel nearly 24 hours after the attack began. Gunshots could still be heard on Saturday evening as security forces tried to contain the last gunmen believed to be holed up on the top floor of the hotel.

The extremist Islamist group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest of its frequent attempts to hit locations visited by government officials. The attack on the hotel is the first major terrorist incident in Mogadishu since new Somali leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took power in May.

In a Twitter post, the US Embassy in Somalia said it “strongly condemns” the attack on the Hayat.

“We extend our condolences to the families of loved ones killed, wish a full recovery to the injured and pledge continued support for #Somalia to hold the murderers accountable and build when others destroy,” he said.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the victims, but many are believed to be civilians.

Mohamed Abdirahman, director of Madina Hospital in Mogadishu, told the AP that 40 people were admitted there with wounds or injuries resulting from the attack.

While nine have been sent home after treatment, five are in critical condition in intensive care, he said.

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