Somali forces battle militants for hotel in Mogadishu: Police

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s security forces exchanged gunfire with militants holed up in a hotel in Mogadishu on Monday (Nov 28) after Al-Shabaab stormed the popular venue near the presidential palace and laid siege overnight.

Sporadic gunfire and explosions could still be heard after dawn around the Villa Rose, a hotel in a secure central part of Mogadishu frequented by lawmakers and public officials.

Police said late Sunday that government forces were seeking to “eliminate” a number of armed militants inside the Villa Rose after attacking the hotel in a hail of bullets and explosions.

National police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said many civilians and officials had been rescued, but did not offer further details.

Witnesses described two massive explosions followed by gunfire that sent people fleeing the scene in Bondhere district. The hotel is just a few blocks from the office of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Al-Shabaab, a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that has been trying to overthrow Somalia’s central government for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), a 20,000-strong military force drawn from across the continent, praised the “swift” security response to the attack in a statement late Sunday.

On its website the Villa Rose describes the hotel as the “most secure lodging arrangement in Mogadishu” with metal detectors and a high perimeter wall.

RETALIATORY ATTACKS

Al-Shabaab has intensified attacks against civilian and military targets as Somalia’s newly-elected government has pursued a policy of “all-out war” against the Islamists.

The security forces, backed by local militias, ATMIS and US air strikes, have driven Al-Shabaab from central parts of the country in recent months, but the offensive has drawn retribution.

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