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At least 4 dead in al-Shabab hotel attack in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali forces were still trying Monday to flush out armed assailants who attacked a hotel in the capital Mogadishu, killing at least four people, residents said.

The death toll is likely to rise as there has been no official news of casualties.

Sporadic gunfire was reported on Monday afternoon, more than 18 hours after the attack on the Villa Rose hotel began. The extremist Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

A police spokesman said on Sunday that dozens of people, including government officials, had been rescued from the hotel.

Mogadishu resident Mohamed Suleyman told the AP that two of his relatives, both civilians, died in the attack. “It is with great sadness to learn that two of my relatives were among those killed in last night’s attack,” he said. “We were informed by their colleagues who managed to escape the attack after jumping (over the perimeter) the wall of the hotel.

Ali Moalim, another resident of Mogadishu, said he saw “two bodies of the security forces carried by their fellow soldiers”.

Al-Shabab said in a broadcast on its own radio frequency on Sunday that its fighters attacked the hotel, which has a restaurant popular with government and security officials. The attack reportedly started with an explosion before gunmen entered the hotel’s gates.

The hotel is located not far from the presidential palace, Villa Somalia, in one of the most protected areas of central Mogadishu. A successful attack near the seat of the federal government is likely to instill deep fear among residents of the seaside capital which has long been prone to militant attacks.

Such militant attacks are common in Mogadishu and other parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

The latest attack comes amid a new high-profile Somali government offensive against al-Shabab, which still controls large parts of central and southern Somalia.

Extremist fighters loyal to the group have responded by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent effort to deter support for the government offensive, and attacks on public places frequented by government officials and others persist.

Hotels and restaurants are frequently targeted, as are military bases of government troops and foreign peacekeepers.

Last month, at least 120 people were killed in two car bomb attacks at a busy junction in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab carried out the attack, the deadliest since a similar attack in the same location killed more than 500 people five years ago.

Al-Shabab opposes Somalia’s federal government, which is backed by African Union peacekeepers, and seeks to seize power and enforce a strict version of Sharia law.

The United States has described al-Shabab as one of al-Qaeda’s deadliest organizations and has targeted it with dozens of airstrikes in recent years. Hundreds of US service members have returned to the country after former President Donald Trump withdrew them.

ABC News

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