Mogadishu hotel siege leaves 14 dead
MOGADISHU - Somalia said Sunday its security forces killed two gunmen and captured three after coordinated car bomb blasts left at least 14 people dead, just two weeks after the country's worst ever attack.
Several people were rescued from Shabaab gunmen holed up in a Mogadishu hotel, following a battle with the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants who claimed the attack, security ministry spokesman Abdiasiz Ali Ibrahim said.
The attack on Saturday began when a car bomb exploded outside the Nasa Hablod Hotel 2 entrance, followed by a minibus loaded with explosives going off at a nearby intersection.
"Five gunmen stormed the building, two of them were killed and the rest captured alive. The security forces are still working on retrieving the casualties, we don't have exact number of the casualties so far," the spokesman told reporters.
Another security official Mohamed Moalim Adan had put the death toll at 14, "most of them civilians", as the operation was still ongoing Saturday night.
One senior police official and a former MP were among the dead.
- 'Violent terrorists' -
The Shabaab claimed the bombing and hotel assault in a statement on its Andalus radio station.
"The Mujahedeen fighters are inside Nasa Hablod 2 hotel where... apostate officials are staying," said the brief statement.
The hotel is popular among government officials, several of whom were rescued by the security forces.
After the explosions witnesses reported shooting from inside the hotel.
"I was very lucky," said Mohamed Dek, who escaped the hotel after the initial explosion.
Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the attack which comes two weeks after a massive truck bomb killed at least 358 people in the capital, the worst attack in the troubled country's history.
To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the October 14 attack, though Shabaab militants have been widely blamed for it.
"The violent terrorists carried out this attack to scare our people who are united to support security after the disaster on October 14. Such atrocities will neither deter nor discourage our will to fight the terrorists," the president said in a statement.
The Nasa Hablod 2 is a popular hotel located in the north of the city whose sister hotel, the Nasa Hablod, was hit by Shabaab militants in June 2016, in an attack that killed 11 people, including a junior minister.
The Shabaab has made attacks on hotels -- commonly beginning with a suicide car bombing followed by an invasion by gunmen -- a regular strategy in its decade old battle to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Mogadishu.
The Shabaab lost their foothold in Mogadishu in 2011 but have continued their fight, launching regular attacks on military, government and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere.