December 11, 2019 / 5:59 AM / 2 months ago

Somali security forces kill five al Shaabab fighters to end hotel siege

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali security forces shot dead five Al Shabaab gunmen, who had killed three civilians and two soldiers during an attack on a hotel near the presidential residence in Mogadishu on Tuesday night, police said early on Wednesday.

Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda linked Islamist militant group, frequently launches bombing and gun raids in Mogadishu in a bid to topple Somalia’s U.N.-backed government. The group confirmed last night it had attacked the Syl hotel, a popular gathering place for officials and lawmakers.

The latest attack started at around 7 p.m. on Tuesday and ended at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday, when all five attackers had been killed, deputy police commissioner General Zakia Hussen said in a statement on Twitter.

“The security forces ended the operation. Five people including three civilians and two soldiers died in the attack,” Hussen said.

“Eleven others were slightly injured, including nine civilians and two soldiers,” she added.

Hussen had said on Tuesday night that 82 people, including several officials, had been rescued from the Syl hotel.

Security officers had initially mistook the gunmen for the police, until they began shooting and throwing grenades, another police officer said on Tuesday.

Al Shabaab’s military spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Musab said on Tuesday that the group’s fighters were behind the attack at the hotel compound near the presidential palace.

Bullet holes are seen around the windows of the SYL hotel after fighting between Somali security forces and Al Shabaab gunmen, who lunched an attack on the hotel near the presidential residence in Mogadishu, Somalia December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, has been embroiled in conflict and chaos since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator then turned on each other.

Al Shabaab, which once controlled much of the country, was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost most of its other strongholds. But its fighters regularly attack sites in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia.

(This story corrects speling of Shabaab in headline)

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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