The Somali branch of Al-Shabab Credit: GIN photo

Government forces say they have put down a siege at the popular Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu that began Friday and has reportedly left over 20 casualties. It is the largest siege in the country since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president this May.

The Hayat is an upscale hotel frequented by government officials, elders, and people from the diaspora community. The director of Mogadishu’s main trauma hospital, Mohamed Abdirahman Jama, said the facility was treating at least 40 people wounded in the hotel attack and a separate mortar strike in another area of the capital.

The founder and current chair of the Union for Peace and Development Party, President Sheikh Mohamud was previously a university professor and dean and was named in Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The weekend attack comes as Somali forces have stepped up operations against al-Shabab, and as Somalia’s President, Mohamud promised to eliminate the armed group. The al-Shabab leadership has also promised to topple Mohamud’s government.

Earlier this week, the United States announced that its forces had killed 13 al-Shabab fighters in an air raid in the central-southern part of the country as the group was attacking Somali forces.

The U.S. has carried out several air raids on the group’s fighters in recent weeks.

Last May, President Biden signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia—largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.

In addition, Biden approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said.The decisions by Biden, described to Washington Post reporters on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”

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