Militants storm hotel in Somalia, leaving at least 20 dead

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamic militants stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital, engaging in an hours-long firefight with security forces that killed at least 20 people, according to police and witnesses.

Also, at least 40 people were injured in the attack late on Friday night and security forces rescued many others, including children, from the scene at the popular Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, they said on Saturday.

The attack began with explosions outside the hotel before the gunmen entered the building.

Somali forces were still trying to lift the siege of the hotel almost 24 hours after the attack began. Gunfire could still be heard on Saturday evening as security forces tried to contain the last gunmen believed to be hiding on the top floor of the hotel.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab Islamic extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in its frequent attempts to hit places frequented by government officials. The attack on the hotel was the first major terrorist incident in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took power in May.

In a post on Twitter, the US Embassy in Somalia said it “strongly condemns” the attack on Hayat.

“We offer our condolences to the families of those killed, wish full recovery to those injured and pledge continued support for #Somalia to hold killers accountable and build when others tear down,” the statement said.

There was no immediate information on the identities of the victims, but many are believed to be civilians.

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