Somalia: Al-Shabaab siege ends in Mogadishu; at least 19 dead

AFP
Mogadishu, Somalia Published: Mar 01, 2019, 11:10 PM(IST)

Somalia Photograph:( Others )

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Sporadic shooting continued throughout Thursday night and into Friday. 

Security forces on Friday ended a siege by Al-Shabaab insurgents nearly 24 hours after jihadists mounted an attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu that left at least 19 dead.

"The last terrorist gunman was killed after the security forces destroyed a room in which he was taking cover and the siege is over now," Ismail Muktar, the commissioner for Hamar Jajab district, told reporters. 

"The security forces are clearing the area."

The attack began on Thursday evening at around 1800 GMT, when a Shabaab militant in a car blew himself up, causing a huge blast that ripped the front off a major hotel and left several cars in flames on the busy street.

Other fighters then stormed inside a building housing a restaurant, where they were quickly surrounded by police.

Sporadic shooting continued throughout Thursday night and into Friday. 

Medics had pulled five bodies from the wreckage immediately after the explosion, but the recovery of more bodies was blocked for hours by the ensuing fighting.

And by Friday afternoon, they said the toll had climbed significantly. 

"We have recovered 14 more dead bodies from under the rubble of collapsed buildings, bringing the total number of dead to 19," said Aamin Ambulance director Abdikadir Abdirahman. 

At least 112 people were admitted to the city's three main hospitals, hospital sources said.

Heavy explosions could be heard coming from the building on Friday afternoon as elite soldiers appeared to move in to storm Shabaab positions.

The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group. 

The organisation announced that fighters waged a "martyrdom-seeking" and commando operation against what it described as a "luxury hotel inhabited by government officials and security service officers".

The explosion which began the assault was so powerful that it tossed several vehicles into the air that then burst into flames.

Witnesses said the bombing took place in the early evening, when the street was filled with people relaxing after a day's work.

"The whole area was in flames," said Abdisamed Mohamed, a witness. "There was gunfire too."

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