Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 January 2020

Al Shabab gunmen attack Mogadishu hotel

Militants killed by security forces near presidential residence, militants deny police claim

An ambulance carrying an injured person from the hotel attack arrives at the Shaafi hospital in Mogadishu on Tuesday. Reuters
An ambulance carrying an injured person from the hotel attack arrives at the Shaafi hospital in Mogadishu on Tuesday. Reuters

Somali security forces on Tuesday killed five Al Shabab fighters who were part of a group that stormed a Mogadishu hotel popular with politicians and army officers.

Two security members and three civilians were also killed when the jihadist militants stormed a hotel in Somalia's capital, police said Wednesday. Nine other civilians and two soldiers were also wounded slightly

"Our brave security forces ended the terror attack on SYL hotel rescuing more than 80 people" including government officials and hotel guests, a police said in a statement.

Contrasting police statements, Al Shabab released a statement about its attack on the SYL hotel in Mogadishu, claiming the killing of 25 people including senior officials, military & police officers, presidential guards, government employees and intelligence agents. It also said among the dead were 13 Somali soldiers trained by the Turkish government and that 39 other were injured in the attack including former ministers, MPs and security officials.

Several witnesses told AFP reporters that the assailants were dressed in police uniform, which allowed them to approach the hotel without arousing suspicion.

They then opened fire and threw grenades said Ahmed Ali, a Somali police officer, triggering an armed response from security forces guarding checkpoints leading to the nearby presidential palace. After several hours of siege, police killed the two last attackers holed up inside the hotel.

The attack began at 6:40pm local time, when a gun battle broke out between the militants and members of the security forces guarding checkpoints leading to the nearby presidential palace.

Al Shabab fighters have struck at regular intervals even though their influence in the region has been waning. AP
Al Shabab fighters have struck at regular intervals even though their influence in the region has been waning. AP

Al Shabab posted a statement online saying it had carried out an operation, "which happened as planned".

Its military spokesman, Abdiaziz Abu Musab, said the fighters were inside the hotel compound near the presidential palace.

"The compound is home to enemy officials," Mr Abu Musab said.

The attack appears to mark a change in the group’s tactics.

Al Shabab normally uses car bombs in attacks on heavily fortified targets to blow openings for gunmen to run through. But this assault was carried out only on foot.

Security officials said new security measures, including checkpoints across Mogadishu, have made it difficult for the rebels to sneak car bombs into the capital.

The militant group, which is trying to topple the UN-backed government, has attacked the SYL hotel before.

A car-bomb attack on the hotel in August 2016 killed 15 people and caused extensive damage.

In February that year, 14 people were killed in an attack on the hotel and a raid in January 2015 left five people dead.

Somalia has been mired in conflict and chaos since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew Siad Barre's military regime.

Al Shabab, which once controlled much of the country, was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost most of its other strongholds.

Its fighters also regularly attack neighbouring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia.

Updated: December 11, 2019 03:55 PM

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