Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 October 2020

Al Shabab attack on upscale hotel in Somalian capital ends with 15 killed

Security forces took four hours to regain control of the Elite Hotel in Lido beach area of Mogadishu

Somalia's security forces on Sunday ended a nearly five-hour siege by Islamic extremists at a beachside hotel in Somalia's capital, said police and a government spokesman.

At least 15 people were killed when the attackers invaded the Elite Hotel, a new establishment popular with Mogadishu's young people, said Col. Ahmed Aden, a police officer.

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 said.

A device was detonated in front of Hotel Elite at Lido beach in Mogadishu. Twitter / @Somaliweyn_
A device was detonated in front of Hotel Elite at Lido beach in Mogadishu. Twitter / @Somaliweyn_

Earlier on Sunday, while the siege was still going, a security source said one assailant died in the car bomb explosion that started the attack and two died in a shootout.

Ambulance workers reported that at least 28 people were wounded.

Witnesses said the attack began with a heavy explosion and people ran from the area as gunfire could be heard from the hotel, which is frequented by government officials.

"The blast was very heavy and I could see smoke in the area. There is chaos and people are fleeing from nearby buildings," said witness Ali Adan.

Al Shabab said it carried out the attack, a statement translated by the Site Intelligence Group said.

It claimed its fighters "took control over the hotel" in the "martyrdom-seeking operation".

Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of then president Siad Barre's military regime.

That led to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al Shabab, which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.

Al Shabab 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 Shabab fighters held in Mogadishu's central prison were killed in a shootout with security forces after they somehow managed to get their hands on weapons within the facility.

The group has attacked hotels several 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 Shabab 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.

For the past year Somalian forces have been engaged in an offensive in the nearby Lower Shabelle region designed to block efforts by Al Shabab to move weapons into the capital, said Omar Mahmood, International Crisis Group's senior Somalia analyst.

But there has been an increase in activity in Mogadishu since late June, including suicide attacks on government and military centres, Mr Mahmood said.

The claim of responsibility on Sunday said 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," Mr Mahmood said.

"Al Shabab sees these hotels as an extension of the government, more or less, so they are targeted in that way."

Updated: August 17, 2020 11:24 AM

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