The jihadist attack on a Mogadishu hotel, which lasted 30 hours, left 21 dead, the Minister of Health announced this Sunday, while the relatives of the disappeared desperately awaited news.
“The Ministry of Health has so far confirmed 21 dead and 117 injured” in the attack on the Hayat hotel in the Somali capital, which began on Friday night, Minister Ali Haji Adan said.
The previous balance was 13 dead.
This Sunday, relatives of people missing in the attack were waiting for news of their loved ones. “My brother was in the hotel the last time we heard from him, but his phone is cut off and we don’t know what to expect,” Muktar Adan, a businessman, told AFP.
Hours earlier, the security forces had announced that they had put an end to the attack at dawn on Sunday, with the death of all the assailants.
Rescuers have been trying since Sunday to find possible survivors in the rubble, AFP journalists confirmed.
The hotel, frequented by government officials, suffered considerable damage during the clash between Islamists and security forces, with parts even collapsing.
The attack is the most serious in Mogadishu since the election in May of the new Somali president, Hasan Sheikh Mohamud, and highlights the danger posed by the 15-year-old Islamist insurrection.
The attackers from Al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliated group, had launched the attack on Friday night by storming the popular Hayat hotel with guns and bombs, where they had been barricaded for around 30 hours.
Police Commissioner Abdi Hasan Mohamed Hijar told the press on Sunday that “106 people, including women and children,” were rescued by security forces during the Islamist attack, which ended around midnight.
Shortly before the end of the siege, a witness from the roof of another building, Salaad Ali, said that the security forces were attacking “with heavy weapons”.
Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday in related media. Abdiaziz Abu Musab, spokesman for the group, assured in statements to Andalus radio that his forces had “caused numerous casualties.”
One woman, Hayat Ali, said security forces had found three children between the ages of four and seven hiding in shock in a hotel bathroom, after which they were reunited with their family.
The assault came after the United States announced on Wednesday that it had killed 13 al-Shabab militants in an airstrike around Teedaan, some 300km north of Mogadishu and near the Ethiopian border.
President Joe Biden decided in May to restore the US military presence in Somalia, reversing the decision of his predecessor Donald Trump.
Al Shabab militants were expelled from Mogadishu in 2011 by an African Union force, but still control large swaths of territory and are capable of deadly action against civilian and military targets.
President Hasan Sheikh Mohamud said last month that the militants could not be defeated with the sole recourse of military force, but he specified that it was not yet time to engage in negotiations.