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Somali forces storm extremist hotel, freeing 60 people


MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali forces on Monday stormed a hotel in the capital Mogadishu where Islamist extremists had been hiding for more than 18 hours after killing eight civilians and locking dozens in the building, officials said. official said.

Police spokesman Sadik Dodishe said all six extremists died during the operation at the Villa Rosa hotel, and a member of the security forces was also killed.

Dodishe said about 60 people trapped in the hotel were freed and no one was injured. It is not clear if others are missing.

According to Dodishe, five of the attackers were killed by security forces and one blew himself up.

The radical Islamic group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mohamed Suleyman, a resident of Mogadishu, told the AP that two of his relatives, both civilians, were killed in the attack. “It is with great sadness to learn that two of my relatives were among those killed in last night’s attack,” he said. “We were informed by their colleagues who managed to escape the attack after jumping (over the wall) of the hotel.”

Ali Moalim, another resident of Mogadishu, said he saw “two bodies of security forces being carried away by their comrades”.

Al-Shabab said in a broadcast on its own radio frequency on Sunday that its fighters attacked the hotel, which houses a restaurant popular with government and security officials. . The attack is believed to have started with an explosion before gunmen stormed the hotel gates.

The hotel is not far from the presidential palace, Villa Somalia, one of the most protected areas in central Mogadishu. A successful attack near the headquarters of the federal government has the potential to instill deep fear among residents of the seaside capital that has long been vulnerable to attacks by militants.

Attacks by such militants are common in Mogadishu and other parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

The latest attack comes as the Somali government is waging a large-scale offensive against al-Shabab, which still controls much of central and southern Somalia.

Extremist fighters loyal to the group have responded by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent attempt to discourage support for government strikes, and attacks on places public places frequented by government officials and others continues.

Hotels and restaurants are often targets, as are military bases for government troops and foreign peacekeepers.

Last month, at least 120 people were killed in two car bombs at a busy intersection in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab carried out that attack, the deadliest since a similar attack at the same location killed more than 500 people five years ago.

Al-Shabab opposes Somalia’s federal government, which is supported by African Union peacekeepers, and seeks to take power and enforce a strict version of Sharia law.

The United States has described al-Shabab as one of al-Qaida’s most dangerous organizations and has targeted it with numerous airstrikes in recent years. Hundreds of US service members have returned home after former President Donald Trump withdrew them.

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