Somali security forces Friday ended the al-Shabab siege of a residential building in Mogadishu after battling the militants for almost 24 hours. An unknown number of al-Shabab militants had remained holed up in a building near a hotel in Mogadishu since Thursday.
VOA’s reporter on the scene says government security forces cordoned off the entire area and began collecting dead bodies, barring journalists from getting close to the building that was under siege.
The death toll from Thursday’s twin car bombs in the area has climbed to more than 30 people, according to admission records from three hospitals.
VOA reporters in the city say the death toll is likely to rise because the number of the dead bodies and recovery of those injured remained unavailable.
Al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-affiliated militant group, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s twin blasts and the siege of the building.
The assault started Thursday night when the militants detonated twin car bomb outside hotels and restaurants along the city’s main Maka al-Mukarama road.
Within an hour of the blasts, armed militants started firing and hurling hand grenades from a nearby residential building.
Somali security officials believe the militants missed their target, which likely was one of the hotels in the area, and mistakenly went into another building for cover.
“Somali security forces typically have been known to end such militants’ sieges in the city within a few hours, but this 24-hour operation is the longest ever, and it shows there is security negligence,” said Abdisalam Guled, former deputy of the Somali National Security Agency.
Speaking to state-run radio, Somali Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Guelleh said flushing militants out of the building was not easy.
“The operation was supposed to end quickly, but the fact the militants were desperately holding a number of civilians as human shields made it difficult for the security forces to intensify their operation,” Guelleh said.
The group has been fighting to overthrow a Western-backed federal government that is protected by 22,000 African Union-mandated peacekeepers.
Fight against al-Shabab
Al-Shabab lost most of its strongholds in south and central Somalia to military forces from the Somali National Army and the African Union.
The movement and mobilization of a large portion of al-Shabab military attacks also were weakened by a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. airstrikes.
In 2018, the U.S. military command for Africa reportedly carried out 50 raids against the militants. As of Tuesday, U.S. raids in 2019 targeted the militants 23 times, including one in central Somalia on Tuesday that killed 20 terrorists and destroyed one vehicle.
Despite the continued military pressure on the terror group, it continues to carry out assassinations and blasts in Mogadishu.
Last month, militants assassinated the country’s Deputy Attorney General Mohamed Mursal, and the oldest Federal lawmaker, Osman Ilmi Boqorre.