Mogadishu, Somalia

At least 20 people were killed after unidentified gunmen stormed an upscale hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Friday night, officials said, following gunfire and significant explosions in the area.

Police Major Yasin Haji told CNN that at least 50 other people were injured in the ongoing attack on the Hayat Hotel.

A number of gunmen are holding hostages and continuing to fire from inside at security forces, slowing down the operation to regain control of the hotel, Haji added.

β€œIt took us more than 24 hours to end the terrorist siege of the Hayat Hotel because the attackers took civilians hostage and used them as human shields. We cleaned the first and the last floor. But they are still in the middle two floors,” Haji said.

Ahmed Abdi, a doctor at Madina Hospital, said the death toll was likely to rise and many victims were in critical condition. Madina is one of two main hospitals in Mogadishu where most of the victims were taken.

The hospital is still receiving bodies and other injured people, Abdi said.

Police Maj. Farah Hussein confirmed to CNN that Somali security forces entered the Hayat Hotel building and regained most of the control from the gunmen. The area is frequented by legislators and government officials.

Two security officials, including Mogadishu’s intelligence chief Muhidin Mohamed, were injured in the ongoing attack, Major Hassan Dahir, a police officer, told CNN. Details remained murky, however, as the siege continued.

Al-Qaeda-linked terror group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its affiliated online sites, saying its fighters managed to take control of the hotel after battling a path in the building. CNN has not independently confirmed the allegation.

A US airstrike on Sunday killed 13 members of the al-Shabaab group, according to a US Africa Command statement earlier this week. It is unclear whether Friday’s attack is related to this strike.

In May, US President Joe Biden decided to redeploy troops to Somalia to support local government and counter al-Shabaab. The move reversed a decision by former President Donald Trump to withdraw all US troops from the country.

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