"Security forces have ended the siege now and the gunmen are dead," says a security official, after Al Shabab terrorists stormed Hayat Hotel, leaving some 20 people dead and sparking a 30-hour standoff with government forces.
Somalia's security forces have managed to end the Al Shabab terror group's siege at a hotel in the capital Mogadishu that lasted about 30 hours.
"The security forces have ended the siege now and the gunmen are dead, we've had no incoming gunfire from the building in the past hour," a security commander told the AFP news agency late on Saturday on condition of anonymity.
The official gave no information about the total number of casualties in the attack on the Hayat Hotel, or how many Al Shabab militants had been killed, adding that the government would give a press briefing about the bloody attack on Sunday morning.
The hotel has been destroyed following a bombardment by security forces to eliminate the assailants who were holed up there, but the official said the building needed to be cleared of any explosives that may have been planted.
Security forces struck the building with heavy weapons, witness Salaad Ali said earlier on Saturday.
"Part of the hotel is on fire, there were at least two heavy explosions and several other smaller scale ones," said Ali, who told the AFP news agency he watched the drama unfold from the rooftop of another building.
Scores of people were trapped when the assault began and although officials said dozens had been rescued, including children, it is not known how many remain inside.
Unverified pictures posted online showed security officials walking through piles of rubble, with reports of widespread damage to the hotel.
Popular venue with lawmakers
Al Shabab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency for 15 years against the fragile government in the Horn of Africa nation, has claimed responsibility.
Al Shabab spokesperson Abdiaziz Abu-Musab told the group's Andalus radio earlier on Saturday that its forces were still in control of the building and that they had "inflicted heavy casualties".
The attack was the biggest in Mogadishu since Somalia's new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in June after months of political instability.
The Hayat Hotel is a popular venue with lawmakers and other government officials. There was no immediate information on whether any of them had been caught up in the siege.
The director of Mogadishu's main trauma hospital, Mohamed Abdirahman Jama, said it was treating at least 40 people wounded in the hotel attack and a separate mortar strike on a seaside area, Hamar Jajab.
"Among those critically wounded are a newlywed bride and her groom and a family of three children, a mother and their father," Hamar Jajab district commissioner Mucawiye Muddey told AFP.
Decades of chaos
Somalia's allies including Türkiye, the US, Britain as well as the UN have strongly condemned the attack.
Al-Shabaab wavs driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 by AU forces, but still controls swathes of countryside and is able to launch deadly strikes on political, civilian and military targets, with hotels and restaurants often hit.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre appointed the group's former deputy leader and spokesperson, Muktar Robow, as religion minister.
Robow defected from Al Shabab in 2017, with the US government at one point offering a $5 million bounty for his capture.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since the fall of president Siad Barre's military regime in 1991, with civil war and the ascendancy of Al Shabab.
The deadliest attack occurred in October 2017 when a truck packed with explosives blew up in Mogadishu, killing 512 people.