Mogadishu: Somalia’s al Shabaab group attacked a hotel in central Mogadishu on Saturday, June 25, and took many guests hostage. Militants used a suicide bombing and a second blast to attack and enter the Nasahablood hotel before taking guests hostage, the police and the group confirmed.
“We attacked the hotel which was frequented by the apostate government members,” al Shabaab military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters. Somali police captain Aden Dahir confirmed to CNN that the hotel was frequented by Somali government officials, lawmakers and security officers.
Al Jazeera reported that according to police sources, at least 15 people had been killed and over 20 injured before the siege ended late Saturday night.
The militants threw grenades and shot at guests indiscriminately. Ali Mohamud, a witness, recounted “They were shooting at everyone they could see. I escaped through the back door.”
It is still unclear how many militants took part in the attack, or how many hostages were taken and how many have survived. However, a security official told the DPA news agency on the condition of anonymity that he believed the attack had been carried out by three or four militants.
Abdi Kamil Shukri, a spokesperson for the security ministry, told reporters, “The special security forces have ended the siege after killing three attackers inside the hotel. Eleven civilians, two of them doctors, were killed in the attack.” According to the New York Daily News, environment minister Buri Hamza was one of the 15 slain when the suicide bomber’s car explosives caused his room to collapse.
Twitter footage of the incident taken by Somali activist Osman Yusuf shows an ambulance racing away from the scene as gunfire is heard in the background.
Officials said that some people had been able to get away using exits at the rear of the building. “The operation has now ended but we are still combing the building for any possible militants who are hiding,” a police officer, told Reuters.
Saturday’s attack is among a string of others that al Shabaab has carried out in an effort to topple Somalia’s western-backed government. Earlier this month, 10 people were killed and at least 50 were wounded in another al Shabaab-claimed explosion at the Ambassador Hotel in Mogadishu. The Somali government is struggling to combat the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group even with the help of African Union (AU) forces, especially since the European Union decided to cut funding for AU Somalian peacekeeping by 20%.
The US and other western nations continue to support the government. According to Reuters, these countries have been some of the biggest donors to Somalia as it prepares for elections later this year while trying to rebound from years of internal conflict.
“We strongly condemn this attack,” a US State Department official said in a statement. “We remain committed to Somalia’s security and stability, and are proud to stand side-by-side with Somalia in the fight against terrorism.”