MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamic militants have stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital, engaging in an hours-long exchange of fire with the security forces that left at least 20 people dead, according to police and witnesses.
In addition, at least 40 people were wounded in the late Friday night attack and security forces rescued many others, including children, from the scene at Mogadishu’s popular Hayat Hotel, they said Saturday.
Before the gunmen could enter the building, explosions were heard outside the hotel.
Nearly 24 hours after the initial attack, Somali troops were trying to stop the siege at the hotel. Gunfire could still be heard Saturday evening as security forces tried to contain the last gunmen thought to be holed up on the hotel’s top floor.
Al-Shabab Islamic extremist group, with ties to al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for this attack. This is the latest in a series of attacks on government offices. The attack on the hotel is the first major terror incident in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took over in May.
In a Twitter post, the U.S. Embassy in Somalia said it “strongly condemns” the attack on the Hayat.
“We extend condolences to the families of loved ones killed, wish a full recovery to the injured, & pledge continued support for #Somalia to hold murderers accountable & build when others destroy,” it said.
The identities of the victims are not known at this time, although many people believe they to be civilians.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME