11 killed in latest hotel attack by Somali extremist group

Somali government soldiers running to take their positions amid gunfire after a bomb was detonated near the entrance of the Nasa Hablood hotel in Mogadishu.
Somali government soldiers running to take their positions amid gunfire after a bomb was detonated near the entrance of the Nasa Hablood hotel in Mogadishu.PHOTO: REUTERS

Al-Qaeda-linked militants targeting places where government officials live and work

NAIROBI • At least 11 people were killed and several others wounded in an attack carried out by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants on a well-known hotel in the Somali capital, officials have said.

The assault on the Nasa Hablood hotel, near a busy intersection in southern Mogadishu, occurred on Saturday afternoon. The hotel is frequented by politicians, lawmakers and Somali businessmen.

According to witnesses and security officials, attackers detonated a car loaded with explosives at the main entrance of the hotel before a number of gunmen stormed the building.

Attacks on Mogadishu hotels have been common in recent months as al-Shabab, a Somali Islamist extremist group, has targeted the places where high-profile government officials live and work. Some of those hotels have become increasingly fortified, but many remain vulnerable in a city where security forces are still fighting to establish full control.

Earlier this month, the militant group attacked the Ambassador Hotel, killing about 15 people. Two Somali lawmakers were among the dead, Reuters reported.

After Saturday's attack, al-Shabab quickly claimed responsibility once again. "Members from the raiding brigades carried out a pre-planned attack on Nasa Hablood hotel in Mogadishu, and the mujahideen fighters have managed to fully take control of the hotel," said an al-Shabab statement read on the local Radio Andalus station.

In the statement, al-Shabab referred to the hotel as a "haven for the heads and commanders of the apostate group of Somalia", referring to the Somali government.

Somali special forces entered the building some time after the attack, and witnesses said they later heard a long exchange of gunfire. The Associated Press reported that the attackers had been confined to the upper floors of the hotel, from which they tossed grenades.

Mr Abdi Kamil Shukri, a spokesman for the Somali security ministry, told reporters late on Saturday that the situation was "back to normal". He said the attack was ended by the special forces, and three gunmen and 11 civilians, two of them doctors, were killed.

Witnesses said they saw the bodies of five people slain in the attack but acknowledged that there could be more. Media outlets, quoting unidentified security officials, said that as many as 15 were killed.

Somalia has been racked by conflict for the past quarter of a century, and the rise of al-Shabab in 2005 signalled the start of another deadly chapter. An African Union military force and billions in foreign assistance helped push back the group from the capital and other parts of the country, but al-Shabab has been resurgent in recent months, according to top Somali officials.

THE WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline '11 killed in latest hotel attack by Somali extremist group'. Print Edition | Subscribe