Deadly gun, bomb attack kill 15 in Somalia
London, August 17, 2020 (AltAfrica)-At least 15 people were killed on Sunday when the attackers invaded the Elite Hotel, a new establishment popular with Mogadishu’s young people, said Col. Ahmed Aden, a police officer.
The attack by extremists lasted about five hours before Somalia’s security forces ended the siege at a beachside hotel in Somalia’s capital, said police and a government spokesman.
Al-Shabaab said they carried out the attack, according to a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Security forces later killed all four attackers and rescued dozens of people who were trapped inside the hotel, Ismail Mukhtar, spokesman of Somalia’s information ministry told The Associated Press.
The attack started in the afternoon with a powerful car bomb blast which blew off the security gates to the hotel. Then gunmen ran inside and took hostages, mostly young men and women who were dining there, he said.
Ambulance sirens could be heard in the area which had a power outage when the attack started.
Somalia’s homegrown Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, who are allied to al-Qaida, have claimed responsibility for the attack via its radio arm, Andalus.
The hotel attack shattered a period of calm that had lasted for a few months. Earlier this year Somalia had a spate of bomb attacks.
Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of then-President Siad Barre’s military regime, leading to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabaab which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab was driven out of the capital in 2011, but its militants continue to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.
Last week four Shabaab fighters held in Mogadishu’s central prison were killed in an intense shootout with security forces after they somehow managed to get their hands on weapons within the facility.
The group has targeted hotels multiple times over the years, including in February 2019 when it killed at least 20 people in a car bomb and gun attack on a hotel in Mogadishu that lasted for nearly 24 hours.
A month before that, Al-Shabaab killed 21 people in a siege on an upscale hotel in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, an assault that highlighted its ability to expand its network beyond Somalia’s borders.
Its last major attack in Mogadishu was in December 2019, when it slaughtered 81 people by detonating a vehicle packed with explosives.
It is unclear whether the relative lull this year reflected improved capacity on the part of Somali security forces or a change in strategy by Al-Shabaab, said Omar Mahmood, Somalia senior analyst for International Crisis Group.
For the past year Somali forces have been engaged in an offensive in the nearby Lower Shabelle region designed to stymie efforts by Al-Shabaab to move weapons into the capital, Mahmood noted
But there has been “an uptick in activity” in Mogadishu since late June including suicide attacks targeting government and military facilities, he said.
The claim of responsibility distributed Sunday stressed that the Elite Hotel “is inhabited by a large number of government officials”.
“This is kind of getting back to the attacks they used to do,” Mahmood said.
“Al-Shabaab sees these hotels as an extension of the government more or less, so they are targeted in that way.”