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Extremist gunmen storm hotel in Somali capital, 11 killed

Jan. 25, 2017 Updated Wed., Jan. 25, 2017 at 7:47 p.m.

Somalis walk near a hotel heavily damaged by a car bomb blast in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017. (Farah Abdi Warsameh / Associated Press)
Somalis walk near a hotel heavily damaged by a car bomb blast in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017. (Farah Abdi Warsameh / Associated Press)
By Farah Abdi Warsameh, Abdi Guled Farah Abdi Warsameh and Abdi Guled Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia – At least 11 were killed and 50 injured Wednesday as Somali security forces ended a siege by extremist fighters who stormed a hotel in the capital, police said.

Four al-Shabab attackers were also killed in the attack on Dayah hotel, which is often frequented by government officials, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police officer. The death toll may rise, he said.

Survivors described chaotic scenes in which hotel residents hid under beds and others jumped out of windows of the four-story building to escape the attackers.

“They kicked down room doors and at some point posed themselves as rescue teams by telling those inside to come out (only) to kill them,” said Hassan Nur, a traditional Somali elder.

He said two well-known clan elders were among those killed.

The assault on the hotel started when a suicide car bomb exploded at its gates. A second explosion soon followed.

Dozens of people, including lawmakers, were thought to have been staying at the hotel at the time of the morning attack, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein.

A nearby shopping center caught fire and dozens of people helped save goods from the flames.

Somalia’s homegrown Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack via its online radio, Andalus, saying its fighters succeeded in entering the hotel.

Al-Shabab frequently targets hotels and other public places often visited by government officials and foreigners. Al-Qaida’s East African affiliate is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in this Horn of Africa nation.

In June, gunmen stormed the Nasa-Hablod hotel, killing at least 14 people. Two weeks before that, gunmen killed 15, including two members of parliament, at the Ambassador hotel.

Despite being ousted from most of its key strongholds, al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly guerrilla attacks across large parts of south and central Somalia.

Earlier this month, a bomb explosion at a restaurant in Mogadishu killed three, and a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a security checkpoint near the international airport, killing at least three. That blast occurred a few hundred meters (yards) from the main base of the African Union peacekeeping mission.

Al-Shabab’s assaults have threatened this nation’s attempts to rebuild from decades of chaos. The presidential election, a key step toward recovery, already has been delayed several times because of security and other concerns.

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