After more than 30 hours, a siege at a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, has ended, Somali officials said Sunday.
Authorities said at least 20 people were killed in the attack and 40 were wounded.
The BBC reports the hotel “has been largely destroyed following intense fighting between the militants and security forces throughout Friday night and Saturday."
Somali security forces had been battling the al-Shabab militants ever since they attacked the Hayat Hotel Friday night with several explosions and gunfire, security officials said.
Civilians, including women and children, were rescued from the hotel during the attack.
The Hayat Hotel is an upscale hotel frequented by government officials, elders and people from the diaspora community.
Businessmen and local traditional elders were among those killed and injured in the attack. According to relatives, the hotel’s co-owner, Abdirahman Iman is among those killed.
The special security operations unit known as the “Alpha Group trained by the U.S.” entered the ground floor as insurgent snipers held positions upstairs, according to witnesses.
The attack began Friday evening just after sunset prayers, when a car bomb exploded at the gate to the hotel. At least two other explosions followed, and then gunmen posing as police officers stormed the hotel, witnesses said.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Survivors who spoke to VOA Somali recounted harrowing stories of hiding under tables, jumping from windows as armed attackers continued firing indiscriminately against those in the hotel and its surroundings.
"It was a beautiful Friday, which is like the weekend for Somalis … the beautiful conversations and happy faces of the hotel guests immediately turned into explosions, gunfire, blood and a shocking sense. I ran into a room next to the hotel reception area, along with dozens of people. We spent at least 40 minutes of desperation there before we got a chance to break windows and run,” said one survivor, Abdinasir Mohamed Gedi.
Another survivor, Abdirahman Ahmed, was among nine other survivors. He said he and the others spent about six hours inside a barber shop next to the hotel before they were rescued by government soldiers in the early morning hours.
“It was like being holed up into a dangerous corner waiting for death to come. We never thought we could survive because we could hear the militants shouting, “God is great. Kill whoever you see,” Ahmed said. “When we were rescued, I could see a headless body apparently killed by an explosion and two other dead bodies lying in the street.”
The attack is the first deadly attack by al-Shabab on an upscale target in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took office in May.
Abdulkadir Abdulle contributed to this story from Mogadishu.