Wednesday 24 January 2018

At least 14 killed in Somali hotel carnage following suicide bomb

Terror: Yesterday’s suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu. Photo: Reuters
Terror: Yesterday’s suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu. Photo: Reuters

Abdi Guled

Gunmen stormed a hotel in Somalia's seaside capital yesterday, taking guests hostage and "shooting at everyone they could see", before security forces pursued the grenade-throwing assailants to the top floor and ended the hours-long assault, police and witnesses said, with at least 14 people killed.

Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the latest in a series of hotel attacks in Mogadishu, one that began with a powerful explosion at the entry gate.

"We have finally ended the siege - the last remaining militants were killed on the top floor," police captain Mohamed Hussein said after security forces pursued the gunmen who had retreated to upper floors of the Nasa-Hablod hotel, setting up sniper posts on the roof.

At least four gunmen were involved in the attack.

"We have so far confirmed the deaths of 14 people. Some of them died in the hospitals," Hussein said. The deaths included women who were selling khat, a stimulant leaf popular with Somali men, outside the hotel, he said.

Hussein said security forces killed two of the attackers. Police and medical workers said another nine people were wounded in the assault.

Police said the attack began when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the hotel entrance, ripping off its gate. Gunmen fought their way inside, and a witness said they began shooting randomly at hotel guests.

Blood was splattered on the hotel floor. The bodies of two men, including one thought to be a hotel guard and an attacker dressed in a military uniform, lay on the first floor.

Bullets pockmarked the hotel walls. Security forces combed through hotel rooms, searching for explosives.

A witness, Ali Mohamud, said the attackers randomly shot at guests, explaining: "They were shooting at everyone they could see. I escaped through the back door."

Yusuf Ali, an ambulance driver, said he evacuated 11 people injured in the attack to hospitals. "Most of them were wounded in the crossfire," he said.

The Somalia-based, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab has been waging a deadly insurgency across large parts of Somalia and often employs suicide car bomb attacks to penetrate heavily fortified targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

In early June, an overnight siege by extremist gunmen at another hotel in the capital killed least 15 people, including two members of parliament.

Al-Shabaab also claimed responsibility for that attack.

The latest attack comes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which extremists often step up their attacks.

Sunday Independent

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