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Somalia hotel siege ends with several dead

Officials say Somali troops have retaken a hotel in Mogadishu that had been partially taken over by extremist al-Shabab gunmen. Somalia's ambassador to Geneva was among those killed in the fighting.

Somali troops on Saturday took full control of the hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after surrounding the building on Friday evening, officials said.

Al-Shabab gunmen had

stormed the Maka Al-Mukarramah hotel,

which is popular with government officials and foreigners, on Friday afternoon. Their attack was preceded by

a suicide car bomb attack at the gate of the hotel.

The gunmen were later reported to have holed up on the third and fourth floors of the building.

"The operation has ended and we have taken full control of the hotel," a senior police officer, Captain Mohamed Hussein, said.

Several fatalities

He said security forces had found four more bodies in the hotel on Saturday, in addition to the nine dead on Friday. Four other people were reported to have died in hospital, with some 30 wounded.

A spokesman for Al-Shabab, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, said in an emailed statement that some of the group's fighters had died in the siege, but that others had managed to leave the hotel.

In contrast, Hussein said that all the gunmen were killed.

Somalia's ambassador to Switzerland was among the government officials killed in the fighting, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.

Violent campaign

Al-Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist group, controlled much of Mogadishu between 2007 and 2011, but was pushed out of the capital by government and African Union forces.

It has, however, kept up regular suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in the city, often targeting government troops, politicians and foreigners as it seeks to overthrow the government and impose its strict Sharia version of Islamic law on the country.

In February, al-Shabab fighters

attacked another Mogadishu hotel,

killing at least 25 people.

tj/sms (AP, Reuters)

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