Al-Shabaab kills 14 in Mogadishu hotel attack

Somalia | Despite losing ground to African Union forces, the Islamist militant group continues to spread terror in East Africa
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/27/16, 08:40 am

Somali security forces on Saturday evening ended an hours-long siege by al-Shabaab gunmen on a hotel in Somalia’s capital. The attack left more than 34 injured and at least 14 dead, including State Minister for Environment Burci Mohamed Hamza.

The assault began when a suicide bomber detonated a car at the entrance of the guarded Nasa-Hablod hotel in Mogadishu. Gunmen then entered through the twisted, broken gate and began shooting randomly, witnesses said. The attackers took hostages from among the hotel’s guests, threw grenades as they barricaded themselves in the building, and assumed sniper positions on the roof.

Security forces pursued the assailants as they scoured for explosives in the bullet-pocked building. They cornered and killed the four gunmen on the roof and rescued a majority of the hostages.

“We have finally ended the siege,” said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein. “The last remaining militants were killed on the top floor.”

Health officials rushed the injured to Mogadishu’s Madina hospital. Somalia’s Radio Dalsan reported youth in the city went to the hospital to donate blood for the injured.

Al-Shabaab quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier this month, the extremist group staged an overnight siege on another hotel in Mogadishu, where its 15 victims included two members of parliament. Somalis often gather in hotels to enjoy dance music and play dice and domino games, but the recent attacks have created a climate of fear.

“Having fun at hotels is good, but my safety comes first,” said Ahmed Ali, a Mogadishu resident.

The terror group has increasingly engaged in sporadic attacks after African Union forces pushed it out of the majority of the territory it once controlled. Al-Shabaab staged a similar hotel attack in February that killed at least nine people.

“There has been an increase,” said Ebrahim Deen with the Afro-Middle East Center in South Africa. “It is trying to show it still remains relevant.”

The African Union has more than 20,000 troops assisting in the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia. Uganda said on Friday it will withdraw its more than 6,000 troops by the end of 2017. The announcement comes after the European Union reduced its funding for the mission by 20 percent. But other countries in the region terrorized by al-Shabaab will willingly join the fight if necessary, Deen said.

“If Uganda takes away its troops, Ethiopia or Kenya will be ready to fill that void,” he predicted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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