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Terrorist Siege of Mogadishu Hotel Kills 20

A Somali security man stands looks at the wreckage of a pickup truck near Naso-Hablod hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, June 26, 2016.

Authorities in Somalia say a terrorist siege of a Mogadishu hotel has ended, but not before at least 20 people were killed, including a government minister.

The militant group al-Shabab is claiming responsibility for the attack, saying the hotel is frequented by what it calls "apostate government members."

Somalia's foreign minister says among the dead is the country's environments minister, Buri Mohamed Hamza.

The Somali National News Agency said Sunday the death toll stands at 20, including three staff members of a radio station.

Police say the terrorists set off a car bomb outside the Hotel Naso-Hablod Saturday afternoon before gunmen burst into the building, firing their weapons at random and seizing hostages. Police stormed the hotel and engaged the gunmen in a firefight, cornering them on the top floor.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has condemned the attack, the second by al-Shabab in Somalia during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Al-Shabab gunmen took over the Ambassador Hotel in Mogadishu three weeks ago, holding guests and staff hostage for more than 12 hours before police ended the siege. Twenty-one people and three gunmen were killed.

After Saturday's attack, a U.S. State Department official said the U.S. "strongly condemns the attack and express our deep condolences to their victims, their families, and the Somali people. We remain committed to Somalia's security and stability and are proud to stand side-by-side with Somalia in the fight against terrorism."

Al-Qaida linked al-Shabab has killed thousands since it began its campaign of terrorism 10 years ago to turn Somalia into a conservative Islamic state.

Somali and African Union forces have pushed the militants out of large cities and into rural areas, but, as Saturday's attack proves, al-Shabab is still a lethal force.

Harun Maruf of VOA's Somali service contributed to this report.