Extremist gunmen storm hotel in Somali capital, 8 killed

Somalia Blast
Somalis walk near the destroyed hotel and cars in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017. Gunmen from Somalia's violent Islamic extremist rebels fought their way into a hotel in the Somali capital after a suicide car bomb exploded at its gates, a police officer said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — At least eight people were dead and 14 injured Wednesday as Somali security forces ended a siege by extremist fighters who stormed a hotel in the capital, police said.

Four al-Shabab attackers were also killed in the attack on Dayah hotel, which is often frequented by government officials, said Col. Mohamoud Abdi, a senior police officer.

Survivors described chaotic scenes in which hotel residents hid under beds and others jumped out of windows of the four-story building to escape the attackers.

“They kicked down room doors and at some point posed themselves as rescue teams by telling those inside to come out (only) to kill them,” said Hassan Nur, a traditional Somali elder.

He said two well-known clan elders were among those killed.

The assault on the hotel started when a suicide car bomb exploded at its gates. A second explosion soon followed.

Dozens of people, including lawmakers, were thought to have been staying at the hotel at the time of the morning attack, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein.

A nearby shopping center caught fire and dozens of people helped save goods from the flames.

Somalia’s homegrown Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack via its online radio, Andalus, saying its fighters succeeded in entering the hotel.

Al-Shabab frequently targets hotels and other public places often visited by government officials and foreigners. Al-Qaida’s East African affiliate is fighting to impose a strict version of Islam in this Horn of Africa nation.

In June, gunmen stormed the Nasa-Hablod hotel, killing at least 14 people. Two weeks before that, gunmen killed 15, including two members of parliament, at the Ambassador hotel.

Despite being ousted from most of its key strongholds, al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly guerrilla attacks across large parts of south and central Somalia.

Earlier this month, a bomb explosion at a restaurant in Mogadishu killed three, and a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a security checkpoint near the international airport, killing at least three. That blast occurred a few hundred meters (yards) from the main base of the African Union peacekeeping mission.

Al-Shabab’s assaults have threatened this nation’s attempts to rebuild from decades of chaos. The presidential election, a key step toward recovery, already has been delayed several times because of security and other concerns.