Somalia: Government Officials Killed In Suicide Bombing

Al-Shabab militants have attacked a hotel in Somalia, apparently targeting lawmakers and government officials who were holding Friday prayers in the hotel, which has resulted in the deaths of at least 10 and has wounded dozens of others, according to several reports. Two explosions went off at the Central Hotel, with a suicide bomber steering a vehicle loaded with explosives into the outside gate before a second suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the compound.

Al-Shabab, which is a prominent Islamic insurgent group, claimed the responsibility for the attack, according to a report which went out on the group’s radio station, Andulus. This is the second attack on a hotel in Mogadishu in less than a month; three Somali nationals were killed when a suicide car bomber blew himself up at the gate of a hotel housing the advance party of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who visited the country days later in late January.

According to an intelligence official based in Somalia, the Turkish delegation of around 70 members was staying at the hotel at the time but remained unharmed as they weren’t close to the explosion. Gunmen then stormed the building, which is a signature of Al-Shabab. Al-Shabab are also closely linked to Al Qaeda, and claimed responsibility for the attack. They have said that their aim is fighting to topple the U.N.-backed Somali government, and it seems that they won’t be stopping until they have achieved their goal.

The hotel is near the Villa Somalia government buildings, and among the dead were several government officials and lawmakers, the reports said. Many other government officials, including deputy prime minister Mohamed Omar Arte, were wounded, although many of these were not severe. Abulrahman Ali, a local police officer who was at the crime scene after the incident, told the Agence France-Press news service that the explosions were large and had cause a lot of damage to the building, as well as dozens of injuries and a number of deaths.

“The building was badly hit, the explosion was very big. There were very many wounded people too, many of them seriously.”

After being plunged into civil war several decades ago, Somalia has stabilized to an extent, which could be due to the fact that Al Shabab has recently suffered a series of crucial setbacks after losing several leaders in U.S. airstrikes, whilst also losing control of key towns and cities. However, it still remains strong enough, and organised enough, to carry out devastating terror attacks in Mogadishu and other Somali communities.

The group still targets government buildings, restaurants, cafes, and hotels where officials and journalists meet, which has been typical of where it has been targeting since its formation. It is also believed responsible for assassinations of other government officials and several journalists with whom they have disagreed with. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the latest attack and has said that these attacks would not stop Somalia from restoring peace across the country. He has also said that these terrorists don’t represent Islam in their attacks.

“We shall continue the anti-terrorism war. This attack makes clear that terrorists don’t have any respect for the peaceful religion of Islam by killing innocent Muslims.”

[Image via John Moore/Getty Images]