The death toll from a devastating 30-hour siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has climbed to 21, Health Minister Ali Haji Adan said Sunday, as anxious citizens awaited news of missing relatives.
Emergency workers have been trying to clear the debris of a gun and bomb attack by the Al-Qaeda-linked group on the popular Hayat hotel which left parts of the building in ruins, with many feared trapped inside.
“The ministry of health has so far confirmed the deaths of 21 people and 117 people wounded” in the assault that began on Friday evening and lasted over a day, Adan said.
On Sunday morning, the area surrounding the hotel was under tight security, with the roads blocked as emergency workers and bomb disposal experts sought to clear any explosives and remove rubble.
The hotel sustained heavy damage during the gunfight between Somali forces and the insurgents.
Parts of the building collapsed, leaving many people frantically searching for their loved ones who were inside when the attack began.
Police commissioner Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar told reporters on Sunday that “106 people including children and women” were rescued during the siege which ended around midnight.
As bullets and flames ripped through the hotel, security forces searched the property to bring civilians to safety, including three young children who hid inside a toilet.
“The casualties mostly happened in the early hours of the attack, after that security forces spent time rescuing people individually and room by room,” Hijar said.
The attack was the biggest in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in June and underscored the challenge of trying to crush the 15-year insurrection by the Islamist group.