Unidentified gunmen have taken control of a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after two car bombs and gunfire, police and intelligence officials said on Friday. The alShabaab group, which has ties to alQaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Two car bombs targeted the Hayat Hotel. One hit a barrier near the hotel and the other the hotel gate. We believe the gunmen are inside the hotel,” a police officer told Portal.
At least 12 people were killed, a secret service agent told Portal in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Radio Mogadishu, run by the Somali government, reported on Twitter that the police were already there and dealing with the “terrorist attack”. “The armed forces rescued many people, mostly women and children. Precautions are being taken to avoid civilian deaths during the operation,” the network wrote.
The Hayat Hotel is a popular place for parliamentarians and government officials.
AlShabaab has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government for 15 years and wants to set up its own government in the country based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The Shabaab were expelled from Mogadishu in 2011 under pressure from the African Union, but they still control large parts of the territory and have the capability of deadly action against civilian and military targets. In recent weeks, jihadists have carried out attacks on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Also in the last few days, the United States conducted two operations that killed 17 alShabaab members in the African country. The actions are part of the US Army’s military resumption in Somalia the Joe Biden administration’s stance reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.
Somalia’s new President, Hasan Sheij Mahmud, said last month that he could not defeat the militia forces using military force alone, but acknowledged that the time for negotiations was not yet.
Shortly thereafter, Hamza Abdi Barre, the Somali prime minister, appointed Muktar Robow, a former Shabaab leader and spokesman who defected in 2017, as religion minister. The US government even offered a $5 million reward for Robow.