NAIROBI, Kenya — A 30-hour siege by Shabab militants at an upscale hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has left 21 people dead and more than 100 wounded, government officials said.
It was a busy evening at the Hayat Hotel on Friday, with friends arriving to socialize, businesspeople dining together and families unwinding after a long week. But just after 7 p.m. local time, the militants barged in, seizing the premises, killing patrons and setting off a battle with security officers that finally ended Sunday morning.
When it was all over, 21 people had been killed and 117 others wounded, according to the Somali health minister, Ali Haji Adan. Fifteen of those wounded were in critical condition, Abshir Axmad, the state minister at the president’s office, said in an interview.
“It is a terrible and sad day for Somalia and the Somali people,” Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, a Somali lawmaker, said in a phone interview, adding that 11 members of his clan were killed in the attack. “It is sad that these terrorists continue to shed people’s blood so easily.”
The United Nations along with countries including Kuwait and Turkey condemned the attack on Saturday. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, deplored the siege, too, saying in a statement that the United States would continue to support Somalia in its “efforts to counter terrorism and build a secure and prosperous future.”
On Sunday, security forces began clearing the area, but Mr. Axmad said the hotel was still laden with unexploded bombs from the militants. It was not immediately clear how many militants went into the hotel, and officials did not respond to questions about that.
Photos and video from the scene showed parts of the yellow structure’s roof completely damaged, along with bullet holes and soot covering collapsed balconies. While covering the events near the hotel on Sunday, a police officer injured a Somali journalist, according to the Somali Journalists Syndicate, an independent journalists’ union. It was not immediately clear what led to the shooting, and the police have not commented on the episode.
The assault underscored how the Shabab have continued to gain strength in recent years, carrying out daring operations in Kenya and Ethiopia, enlisting recruits through sleek videos posted on social media and extending their grip on villages and towns across large ares of south-central Somalia. Experts say the group particularly gained strength in the past five years, when the former government was roiled by political turmoil and former President Donald J. Trump pulled out hundreds of troops — a move President Biden largely reversed this year.
When he was elected in May, Mr. Mohamud vowed to defeat the Shabab, writing in a piece in The Economist that he would fight the group financially and ideologically and would liberate “all remaining territories, no matter how small or remote, so that our people can live in peace.”
But Mr. Mohamud is quickly realizing, experts said, that handling one major attack, let alone defeating the group, is easier said than done.
“The sheer length of the siege of Hayat Hotel by Al Shabab is unprecedented in Somalia,” said Mohamed Husein Gaas, the director of the Raad Peace Research Institute in Mogadishu. “The president will need to invest in security and revisit the Somali security architecture.”
Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.
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