At least 21 dead in Al-Shabaab hotel attack

2015-03-29 06:30
Foreign security officers inspect wreckage at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack that targeted a United Nations convoy, outside the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. (Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP)

Foreign security officers inspect wreckage at the scene of a suicide car bomb attack that targeted a United Nations convoy, outside the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. (Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP)

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Mogadishu - Blood spattered utensils, bullet-pocked walls and overturned chairs mark the reception area of a prominent hotel in the Somali capital following an attack by Islamic extremists that killed at least 21, including six attackers.

Somali special forces stood over three bloodied bodies of the alleged attackers after officials declared they have full control of the Maka Al-Mukarramah Hotel on Saturday, more than 12 hours after gunmen, believed to be six in number, from the Islamic rebel group al-Shabaab took up positions in the hotel.

The gunfire has stopped and security agents control the whole building, said senior police officer Captain Mohamed Hussein. He had earlier said the gunmen were believed to have occupied the third and fourth floors of the hotel in the capital Mogadishu.

"The operation has ended. We have taken full control of the hotel," Hussein said.

Hussein said security forces found four more bodies in the hotel earlier on Saturday, plus nine dead on Friday. Four more people died in the hospital, according to Duniya Mohamed, a doctor at Madina hospital in Mogadishu. Hussein Ali, an official of Mogadishu's ambulance service, said 28 people were wounded.

Six attackers were killed, said Ridwan Abdiweli, Somalia's government spokesperson. Officials displayed the bodies of three attackers but did not give an explanation of where the bodies of the other attackers were.

Somalia's ambassador to Switzerland and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Yusuf Bari-Bari was among those killed in the attack, said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist group that has carried out many attacks in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the assault on the hotel, which is popular with Somali government officials and foreigners.

Al-Shabaab controlled much of Mogadishu between 2007 and 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia's capital and other major cities by African Union forces.

The attack started around 16:00 on Friday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car at the gate of the hotel. Gunmen then quickly moved in.

Sporadic gunfire

Hours later, the militants were still holed up in the hotel's dark corridors and rooms. Sporadic gunfire could be heard, but it appeared that the security forces waited until daybreak before trying again to dislodge the militants.

The rebels are said to have then stormed into the first, second and third floors of the hotel where rooms are located and held several people hostage.

The attack was condemned by the African Union mission to Somalia in which troops from several African countries support Somalia's weak government.

"Our message to the perpetrators of this inhuman act is, that their action will not dampen our spirit for the common good of Somalia, but will further strengthen us to work even harder to defeat the enemy of peace and development, with the aim of rebuilding a stronger and stable Somalia," said Ambassador Maman S Sidikou, the African Union's representative in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab frequently carries out suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in Mogadishu, the seat of Somalia's Western-backed government, often targeting government troops, lawmakers and foreigners.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabaab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia's government and remains a threat in the East African region.

The group has carried out attacks in neighbouring countries, including Kenya, whose military is part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia's weak government from al-Shabaab insurgency.

At least 67 people were killed in a September 2013 attack by al-Shabaab on a mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  al-qaeda  |  african union  |  hassan sheikh mohamud  |  somalia  |  switzerland  |  east africa

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