Extremist Islamist terrorists kill 12 when they detonate two car bombs to get into a Somali hotel

Extremist Islamist terrorists kill 12 when they detonate two car bombs to get into a Somali hotel

At least 12 people have been killed in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after militants linked to al-Qaeda attacked a hotel and took control of a siege authorities are still fighting to end.

The attackers blew themselves into the Hayat Hotel with two car bombs on Friday evening before opening fire. Somalia’s al-Shabaab insurgents have claimed responsibility.

“So far we have confirmed that 12 people, mostly civilians, have died,” said Mohammed, an intelligence officer, who gave just one name. “The operation is nearing completion, but it is still ongoing.”

The detonations sent huge plumes of smoke across the busy intersection on Friday night and the sound of gunfire was still crackling through the capital at 7am this morning.

“The security forces continued to neutralize terrorists who were locked in a room of the hotel building,” said security commander Mohamed Abdikadir.

Police Major Hassan Dahir told CNN that at least 12 people were killed in the terrorist attack, after previous reports put the number at eight.

Fighters from al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu last night amid a hail of gunfire and bomb blasts, imprisoning dozens of people

Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for last night's brutal attack on the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu (pictured), which is known to have killed at least 12 people

Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for last night’s brutal attack on the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu (pictured), which is known to have killed at least 12 people

“Security forces rescued dozens of civilians, including children, trapped in the building.”

Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s fragile central government for about 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it still had control of the hotel on Saturday.

Dozens of people have gathered in front of the four-story hotel to discover the fate of their loved ones.

“We were looking for a relative of mine who was locked in the hotel. She was confirmed dead along with six other people, two of whom I know,” said a concerned witness, Muudey Ali.

Two explosions

Witnesses reported at least two large explosions as gunmen stormed the hotel, a popular spot frequented by government officials and ordinary Somalis in a busy area off the airport road.

Police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan told reporters late Friday that the first blast was caused by a suicide bomber who, with several other gunmen, made their way into the hotel.

An ambulance is seen near the site of the blast in Mogadishu today

An ambulance is seen near the site of the blast in Mogadishu today

WHO ARE AL-SHABAAB?

Al-Shabaab means “Youth” in Arabic. They first emerged as the radical youth wing of the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia, which was driven out of Mogadishu by Ethiopian forces in 2006.

Foreign jihadists are said to have traveled to the east African country to join al-Shabaab, which has around 7,000 to 9,000 troops.

The terrorist group has ties to Al Qaeda and is banned by both the US and UK.

While most Somalis are Sufis, al-Shabaab supports the strict Wahhabi version of Islam inspired by Saudi Arabia.

It has enforced a strict version of Sharia law in areas it controls, including the stoning of women accused of adultery.

Witnesses said a second blast occurred just minutes later, killing rescuers and security personnel, as well as civilians who rushed to the scene after the first blast.

The militants claimed responsibility in a brief statement on a pro-Shabaab website, saying their fighters “fired indiscriminately” at the hotel.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu-Musab told the group’s Andalusian radio on Saturday that its forces were still in control of the building and had “inflicted heavy casualties” on them.

Earlier this week, the United States announced that its forces had killed 13 al-Shabaab militants in an airstrike in the south-central part of the country as Islamist militants attacked Somali forces.

The US has carried out several airstrikes on the militants in recent weeks.

In May, President Joe Biden ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia to help local authorities fight al-Shabaab, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw most US forces.

In recent weeks, al-Shabaab fighters have also launched attacks on the Somalia-Ethiopia border, raising concerns about a possible new strategy by the jihadists.

Decades of chaos

Somalia’s new President Mohamud said last month that ending al-Shabaab’s insurgency would require more than a military approach, but that his government would only negotiate with the group when the time was right.

Al-Shabaab fighters were driven out of the capital by an African Union force in 2011, but the group still controls swaths of land.

It continues to launch deadly attacks on political, civilian, and military targets, frequently hitting popular hotels and restaurants.

Earlier this month, new Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre announced the appointment of former deputy leader and group spokesman Muktar Robow as Minister of Religion.

A security officer patrols near the site of the blast in Mogadishu

A security officer patrols near the site of the blast in Mogadishu

Robow, 53, publicly resigned from al-Shabaab in August 2017, with the US government once offering a $5 million bounty for his capture.

The Horn of Africa nation has descended into chaos since President Siad Barre’s military regime was overthrown in 1991.

His fall was followed by civil war and the rise of al-Shabaab.

The deadliest attack in Somalia occurred in October 2017 when a truck loaded with explosives blew up in a busy commercial district of Mogadishu, killing 512 people.

In addition to the attrition of the jihadist insurgency, Somalia has also been plagued by a devastating drought that has displaced a million people from their homes and left the country in the shadow of famine, according to the United Nations.