Somalia al-Shabab: Deadly attack on SYL hotel in Mogadishu

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Residents help a man wounded during an attack in the center of Mogadishu on February 26, 2016Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The Somali Youth League (SYL) hotel is frequented by government employees

Militants have stormed a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, leaving at least nine people dead, in an attack claimed by al-Shabab.

The attackers set off a car bomb outside the heavily fortified Somali Youth League hotel before moving in.

An explosion also targeted a popular park known as the Peace Garden. Police say the attack is now over after they shot and killed four attackers.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is waging an armed insurgency in Somalia.

The BBC's Ibrahim Aden in Mogadishu heard a loud explosion on Friday evening, followed by gunfire.

Our reporter says 40 minutes after the first car bomb went off, another explosion of the same magnitude was heard.

Al-Shabab told the BBC they were "in control" of the hotel.

"We have attacked the SYL Hotel and we've forced our way into the hotel," they said.

However, one resident at the hotel told the BBC Somali Service the gunmen had not managed to get inside and had been repelled by security guards.

The hotel, situated near the presidential palace, is popular with government personnel.

Eyewitnesses at the Peace Garden said there were many people in the park at the time of the attack.

"My sister, class mates and I were taking pictures at the peace garden when the car bomb hit the gate of the park," eyewitness Halima Nur told Reuters.

"We all rushed through the back gates," she added.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The huge explosion outside the hotel caused extensive damage to nearby buildings
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Al-Shabab, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, have withdrawn from Mogadishu but still launch attacks there

It is not unusual for al-Shabab to launch attacks in Mogadishu on Fridays, the first day of the Somali weekend.

The operation comes a day after a mortar attack on the presidential palace in Mogadishu in which three people were killed.

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