Somali security forces had been trying to clear the Hayat Hotel of attackers since Friday evening when the gunmen stormed the building following gunfire and large explosions in the area.

At least 30 people were killed and at least 50 others injured during the attack, which saw a number of fighters take hostages and fire at security forces from inside the hotel, police said.

Attackers had used the hostages “as human shields” slowing police efforts to end the “terrorist siege,” Police Major Yasin Haji told CNN earlier. Police had first cleared the first and top floors, while the gunmen held out on the middle two floors, he said.

Some 106 people have since been rescued “including children and women,” police chief General Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar said in a televised briefing Sunday morning.

Police believe the death toll is likely to rise as a search operation is underway to recover bodies from the debris.

Two security officials, including Mogadishu intelligence chief Muhidin Mohamed, were wounded in the attack, Maj. Hassan Dahir, a police officer, told CNN on Friday.

The Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its affiliated online sites, saying its fighters managed to take over the hotel after blasting their way into the building. CNN has not independently confirmed the claim.

The attack on the upmarket hotel, which is popular with lawmakers and other government officials, is believed to be the longest siege by the militant group since it was forced out of the Somali capital in 2011.

A US airstrike recently killed 13 members of Al-Shabaab, according to a statement by US Africa Command earlier this week. It is unclear if the Friday attack is connected to that strike.

On Saturday the US State Department said it “strongly condemns the Al-Shabaab attack at the Hayat Hotel”.

“We express our heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones, wish a full recovery to those injured, and commend Somalia’s security forces,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Saturday.

“The United States remains steadfast in our support of Somali and African Union-led efforts to counter terrorism and build a secure and prosperous future for the people of Somalia,” he added.

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

Quoted from Various Sources

Published for: Mr Blow Up