Government forces wrested control of the Maka al-Mukarama Hotel from al-Shabab early Saturday, hours after a confrontation with gunmen who stormed the hotel late Friday afternoon.
Officials in Somalia said at least 20 people were killed and 28 injured when members of the militant group attacked the popular hotel in Mogadishu. Another 50 were rescued from the hotel early Saturday. All five attackers were killed, government officials said.
Somali forces retook the hotel about 8:30 a.m. Saturday Mogadishu time (0530 UTC). Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Mareye led a government delegation to assess the scene Saturday morning.
Mareye said among those killed were four Somali security personnel, the Somali ambassador to Geneva, a woman from the Somali central bank* who also served as an adviser to the Ministry of Finance, three hotel security guards and six civilians.
An official at Mogadishu's Medina hospital told VOA's Somali service that Somalia's ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari Bari, was brought to the hospital with serious injuries from the attack and later died.
Also killed was a Somali-American woman from Virginia who returned to Somalia last year to work as a consultant with the central bank. Relatives told VOA that Farhiya Bashir Nur was in the hotel at the time of the attack.
Attack in Kenya recalled
Mareye accused al-Shabab of planning on committing mass murder, as the group did in 2013 when it attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya’s capital, during which at least 67 people died.
Mareye said, “Five to six armed men from the terrorist organization attacked the facility with a vehicle laden with explosives, followed by another vehicle that brought them reinforcement. They planned on capturing the hotel for days, just like the way they did with the Westgate Mall in Nairobi."
Hotel guests locked themselves in their rooms Friday and called security forces to tell them where they were located.
The hotel is popular with politicians, members of parliament and Somalis from the diaspora. This is the fourth time it has come under attack.
Gurey Haji Hassan, the co-owner and manager of the Maka al-Mukarama Hotel, said local officials had downplayed security threats against the hotel. "I have been refused [permission] to erect a roadblock outside," he said.
The siege was the second-deadliest attack in Mogadishu this year. An assault on another hotel in February killed 25 people and injured more than 50 others.
Condemnation from U.S.
The U.S. State Department said Saturday that the United States "stands with the Somali people and their government as they bring stability, security and prosperity to all Somalis" and “strongly condemns al-Shabab’s terrorist attack.”
The British ambassador to Somalia, Neil Wigan, told VOA's Somali service that the country was making progress despite the continued al-Shabab attacks. He said al-Shabab is a weakened organization that attacks where it sees opportunities.
Al-Shabab has carried out attacks in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose military is part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia's weak government from al-Shabab insurgency.
* We apologize for mistakenly reporting that Farhiya Bashir Nur worked for the World Bank.