Death toll rises to 18 in Somalia bombing, clashes with militants

Somalia-Car bomb

Police said the death toll could rise.

"I have been running to and fro from blast scene to hospitals since yesterday evening in search of my husband and brother ..."

The United States military on Friday said it had killed 26 fighters with the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike in central Somalia, after a pair of strikes earlier this week killed 55.

Haile said the area around the hotel is among the most heavily guarded streets in the city but the terrorists have been able to stage repeated attacks by bribing police or threatening their families.

A gunbattle raged in Mogadishu on Friday between Somali soldiers and al-Shabab fighters, holed up in a building next to a hotel they had hit with a suicide vehicle bomb the previous evening.

An ambulance passes in front of buildings damaged when a suicide auto bomb exploded, targeting a Mogadishu hotel in a business center in Maka al-Mukaram street, Mogadishu, Somalia, March 1, 2019.

Earlier, Abdirahman Ali, a national security officer, had said at least 10 people had been killed, but it was unclear if they were the same victims recorded by medics.

Despite years of large-scale military assistance from neighboring African countries and the United States, Somalia's army has struggled to prevent al-Shabab's almost relentless attacks in Mogadishu and around the country.

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The area, dotted by hotels, cafeterias and supermarkets, is frequented by influential people including expatriates and government officials.

In October 2017 a truck bombing in a busy neighbourhood of the capital killed over 500 people, the deadliest attack in Somalia to date.

"This action is demonstrative of the Federal Government of Somalia's commitment to dismantling al-Shabaab's network with USA assistance", said AFRICOM's deputy director of intelligence Gen. Gregory Hadfield.

The US has carried out 24 strikes this year.

Authorities deployed a contingent of US-trained Somali troops known as the Alpha Group to try to flush out the militants on Friday, just after two wounded soldiers were carried away from the hotel. Al-Shabab also said it was responsible for a January attack on a hotel and shopping complex in neighbouring Kenya's capital of Nairobi that killed 21 people.

Under President Donald Trump, Washington stepped up attacks against the group and US Africa Command announced six air strikes it says killed 52 militants since February 23.

The U.S. military is one of several security actors in Somalia, along with a multinational African Union mission and troops from Kenya and Ethiopia.

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