A nearly day-long standoff between Islamic militants and security forces in Somalia ended on Friday after three deadly car bomb explosions killed at least 30 people in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Thursday night, security sources said.
Armed militants entered a house next to the Makka Al-Mukarama hotel around 9 p.m. local time, after detonating a car packed with explosives at the gate, Mogadishu police officer Ali Farah said. The explosion took place by the busy Makka Al-Mukarama road during the evening rush hour.
The gunmen holed up in the house, having failed to gain entry to the Makka Al-Mukarama hotel or the home of an appeals court judge, Farah said.
An hour after the first explosion, two more car bombs went off — one outside the adjacent Hilaac UK restaurant and another farther along the same road at the KM-4 junction.
The three blasts “killed at least 30 people and injured dozens more in Mogadishu, and there are fears the toll could rise,” said Farah, speaking to CNN by phone from the scene.
Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked terror group, claimed responsibility for the car bombings. It said in a statement that its fighters killed several security officials and three soldiers in what it termed a “17-hour hotel siege
The Al-Shabaab siege ended 20 hours after the last militant was shot dead, Farah said.
Somali Minister of Information Dahir Mohamud Gelle said during the operation that it was taking time because authorities wanted to avoid civilian casualties.
“The devastating blast set multiple vehicles and commercial buildings on fire, and there were so many people lying on the ground just crying out and wanting help,” an eyewitness told CNN.
Farah said the casualties were mostly passers-by or traders from businesses along the road. Gelle has not confirmed casualty figures or the number of attackers involved.
The US military has been conducting airstrikes against Al-Shabaab. It said Friday that it has killed 81 fighters in three strikes this week and at least 226 fighters in 24 airstrikes this year.
“We are committed to supporting our Somali partners in our shared goal of diminishing al-Shabaab’s networks and disrupting its operations,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, U.S. Africa Command deputy director of intelligence said in a statement.
The United States has about 500 troops in Somalia, primarily in an advisory role.