An intelligence officer said at least 12 people were killed in a hotel siege in Somalia

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – At least 12 people were killed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after militants linked to al Qaeda attacked a hotel and seized a siege that authorities are still struggling to end, an intelligence officer told Reuters on Saturday.

The attackers made their way to the Al-Hayat Hotel on Friday evening with two car bombs, before opening fire. The Somali Al-Shabab insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack. Read more

“We have confirmed so far that 12 people were killed, most of them civilians,” Mohammed, an intelligence officer who gave one name, told Reuters. The process is nearing completion but it is still going on.”

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Explosions sent plumes of smoke to the busy intersection on Friday evening, and gunfire still erupted across the capital by 0700 GMT on Saturday.

Witnesses said that the sounds of explosions permeated the night as government forces tried to wrest control of the hotel from the gunmen.

They added that the fighting destroyed large parts of the hotel.

Friday’s attack was the first major attack since President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud took office in May.

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the jihadist group’s data.

Al-Shabab has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government for more than 10 years. It wants to base its own rule on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

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The Hyatt is a popular venue with lawmakers and other government officials. There was no immediate information on whether any of them were caught in the siege.

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(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh) Writing by Duncan Merry Editing by Sam Holmes and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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