Death toll from terrorist attack on Somali hotel reaches 40
The latest terrorist attack in Somalia has seen a significant increase in its death toll, reaching at least 40 victims.
The number of deaths from the attack of the organization of Al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with the al-Qaeda terrorist group, on the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, has risen to 30, local radio station Dalsan reported on Saturday.
The radio station reported that a standoff was still taking place at the scene, and one militant is inside the hotel.
Local media raised the number to 40 dead and more than 70 injured later on.
The list of the victims includes the owner of the hotel, Abdirahman Hassan Iman, the report said.
Initially, at least eight civilians were confirmed dead in the attack in the Somali capital as security forces continued to battle gunmen holed up inside.
Militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group stormed the popular Hayat Hotel on Friday evening in a hail of gunfire and bomb blasts.
Periodical gunfire and loud explosions could still be heard early Saturday, many hours after the start of the attack.
It is the biggest attack in Mogadishu since Somalia's new President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was elected in May after many months of political instability.
Witnesses reported at least two large explosions as the gunmen stormed the hotel, which is a popular spot frequented by government officials and ordinary Somalis.
Police spokesperson Abdifatah Adan Hassan had told reporters late Friday that the initial blast was caused by a suicide bomber who attacked the hotel with several other gunmen.
Witnesses said a second blast occurred just a few minutes later, inflicting casualties on rescuers and members of the security forces and civilians who rushed to the scene after the first explosion.
The militants claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement on a pro-Shabaab website.
"A group of Al-Shabaab attackers forcibly entered Hotel Hayat in Mogadishu, the fighters are carrying out random shooting inside the hotel," the group said.
Al-Shabaab has been combatting the government of Somalia and is still controlling large areas in the southern and central parts of the country.