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[UPDATE] Death toll from Somalia hotel attack rises to 39

The militant Islamist group al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi, which is near the headquarters of Somalia’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

People rescue a wounded person following three blasts of suicide bomb car attacks in Mogadishu, on 9 November 2018. Picture: AFP.

MOGADISHU - The number of people killed when suicide bombers and gunmen struck a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital has risen to 39 from the initial 22, police said on Saturday.

Guards at the Sahafi hotel and the adjacent CID office opened fire after two suicide car bombs went off on Friday afternoon. A third explosion from a bomb placed in a three-wheeled “tuk-tuk” vehicle near the hotel also hit the busy street.

“We have confirmed 39 civilians died and 40 others were injured in yesterday’s blasts,” said Mohamed Hussein, a police officer in the city.

“The death toll may rise because some people are still missing.”

The militant Islamist group al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi, which is near the headquarters of Somalia’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Hotel guards and CID officers opened fire after the blasts, police added. Then, about 20 minutes later, a third explosion from a bomb placed in a three-wheeled “tuk-tuk” vehicle near the hotel hit the busy street, witnesses said.

“Four militants who attempted to enter the hotel were shot dead by our police and the hotel guards,” police captain Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters.

“Two other militants were suicide car bombers who were blown up by their car bombs. The third car was remotely detonated. So in total 28 people died, including the six militants.”

Abdifatah Abdirashid, who took over the Sahafi from his father after he was killed in a militant attack in 2015, was among those who died in Friday’s attack, said Mohamed Abdiqani, a witness at the hotel.

“The militants who entered the hotel compound faced heavy gunfire from the hotel guards. Abdifatah Abdirashid, the hotel owner, and three of his bodyguards died,” Abdiqani said.

A Reuters photographer at the scene saw 20 bodies of civilians and burnt-out minibuses, motorbikes and cars.

Abdiasisi Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations, said the group had singled out the Sahafi for attack because of its association with the government the Islamists want to overthrow.

“We targeted it because it acts as government base. Government officials and security forces are always in the hotel,” he told Reuters.

Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in the early 1990s.

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