Somali Forces End Deadly Mogadishu Building Siege

There are fears that the death toll could rise further.

Shortly after the detonation, at least four gunmen running on foot opened fire at nearby buildings and businesses, sparking clashes with security forces stationed nearby and hotel guards, he said.

Photos and videos of the attack posted on social media on Thursday night showed the hotel in flames and ambulances run by the private Aamin Ambulance service rushing to the scene.

"There are still some armed men inside a building", police officer Ibrahim Mohamed said, amid sporadic bursts of gunfire and grenade explosions. The militants are still fighting from inside a civilian house adjacent to the hotel.

The hotel is patronized by government officials, and the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has targeted it multiple times in attacks that have killed scores of people.

Armed militants entered a house next to the Makka Al-Mukarama hotel around 9 p.m. local time, after detonating a vehicle packed with explosives at the gate, Mogadishu police officer Ali Farah said.

The attack comes days after USA forces in Somalia stepped up air strikes against the group, which is fighting to dislodge a Western-backed government protected by peacekeepers.

The number of killed in the auto bomb blast and subsequent shooting in Mogadishu has risen to 25, another 35 were injured, Mareeg news outlet reported Friday.

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The hotel advertises the security of its area as a selling point for guests, who include many government officials, making it an inviting high-profile target for the jihadis. Rescue workers compared the carnage to a 2017 truck bombing that killed over 500 people.

Al-Shabab lost most of its strongholds in south and central Somalia to military forces from the Somali National Army and the African Union.

This year, the airstrikes have come at an even faster pace.

The militants are still in the building, fighting US-trained Somali troops known as the Alpha Group.

"Al-Shabab like attacking Maka al-Mukarama because it is in the heart of Somalia", he said.

Under U.S. President Donald Trump, Washington has stepped up attacks against the group, and U.S. Africa Command has announced six air strikes in recent days that it said killed a total of 83 militants since February 23.

The U.S. military is one of several security actors in Somalia, along with a multinational African Union mission and troops from Kenya and Ethiopia.

  • Sonia Alvarado