A damaged building is seen at the scene of a suicide car-bombing near a Mogadishu hotel, on Feb. 28, 2019.
Somali government troops shot dead three Islamist militants holed up in a building in central Mogadishu on Friday, police said, ending a daylong bomb and gun attack that killed at least 29 civilians.
Islamist al-Shabab fighters launched the assault with a suicide car bomb outside the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel on Thursday evening, destroying other structures, igniting a huge fire and leaving people wounded in the rubble.
The militants – who are fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government – fled to a neighbouring building and opened fire on special forces and other soldiers sent to flush them out throughout Friday.
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“The operation is over and the building is now controlled by the security forces. The three militants were shot dead, their bodies are inside the building,” police officer Captain Osman Mohamed told Reuters late on Friday afternoon.
It was the longest that the militants had held a position in Mogadishu since Somali troops backed by African Union peacekeepers forced them out of the city in 2011.
“Our special operation in Mogadishu successfully concluded after almost 24 hours. It targeted a hotel frequented by the members of the apostate government. Dozens of them eliminated, more injured,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab’s military operation spokesman, told Reuters on Friday.
He gave a different figure to police, saying: “Four of our mujahedeen were martyred, others managed to come back after the operation.”
The attack on the hotel came the same day that U.S. forces said they carried out an air strike that killed 26 militants in the Hiran area, north of the capital – part of an escalation of Washington’s fight against the al-Qaeda-linked group.
Somalia’s government had earlier said the gunmen took hostages, but there were no immediate details on their fate.
“There are no civilian casualties in this building. But there may be dead civilians under the collapsed Hilco U.K. restaurant which is also nearby,” Captain Mohamed said.