Somali militants killed after 12-hour Mogadishu hotel siege
Somali forces killed two gunmen and captured three more militants following a siege at a Mogadishu hotel, the security ministry said on Sunday.
The militant attack began with a twin car bombing that left at least 25 dead before fighters stormed the hotel in the Somali capital.
Spokesman Abdiasiz Ali Ibrahim said a number of people had been rescued from Shabaab gunmen at the Nasa Hablod Hotel 2 after a 12-hour siege.
"Five gunmen stormed the building, two of them were killed and the rest captured alive. The security forces are still working on retrieving the casualties," the spokesman told reporters.
Police officer Major Mohamed Hussein said that the death toll could rise above the 25 people already confirmed killed, which include police, guards and hotel guests.
"We suspect some other militants disguised themselves and escaped with the residents who were rescued," he said, according to Reuters.
One senior police official and a former MP were among the dead.
The attack began around at 5pm on Saturday with a car bomb. Gunmen then stormed the building after the bomb had destroyed its defences. The siege ended on Sunday morning.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militant group claimed the bombing and hotel assault in a statement on its Andalus radio station.
"The Mujahedeen fighters are inside Nasa Hablod 2 hotel where... apostate officials are staying," said the brief statement.
The hotel is popular among government officials, several of whom were rescued by the security forces.
Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the attack which comes two weeks after a massive truck bomb killed at least 358 people in the capital, the worst attack in the troubled country's history.
"The violent terrorists carried out this attack to scare our people who are united to support security after the disaster on 14 October. Such atrocities will neither deter nor discourage our will to fight the terrorists," the president said in a statement.
The president had vowed to wage war on the militants after protests erupted in the immediate aftermath of the October 14 attack.
Army spokesman Capt. Abdullahi Iman said the offensive involving thousands of troops will try to push al-Shabab fighters out of their strongholds in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions where many deadly attacks on Mogadishu and on Somali and African Union bases have been launched.
But since the election of the country's Somali-American president in February, the government has announced a number of military offensives against al-Shabab, Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, only to end them weeks later with no explanation.
The United States is expected to play a supporting role in the new offensive, a Somali military official told AP.