Deadly Al-Shabab Attack: Popular Somalia Hotel Car-Bombed Days After Mogadishu Plane Crash

Al-Shabab, the militant Somali Islamic organization, has claimed responsibility for the car-bombing and gun raid of a popular Mogadishu hotel early this morning, reports the BBC. The attack comes just days al-Shabab claimed to have recovered the wreckage of a downed Kenyan plane near Mogadishu, according to All Africa.

The BBC is reporting that 15 people have been killed in the al-Shabab attack. A more recent article by the Toronto Star reports that the total number of deaths at the Somalia hotel was “at least six” and that 10 were injured. A second explosion from a car-bomb was also reported sometime after the first.

Attack at popular Mogadishu hotel days after plane crash. [Screenshot via Reuters/YouTube]Sometime near sunrise, a vehicle outfitted with bombs was parked at the entrance gate to the Sahafi Hotel where it proceeded to explode. Four men were reported to have stormed through the hotel with “AK-47 rifles, propelled grenades, and suicide vests,” going room by room and killing guests.

A Somali member of parliament and a general are said to be among those killed. Some of the gunmen took to the roof of the hotel and traded gunfire with Somalia government soldiers dispatched to take control of the attack. At one point, another car-bomb was detonated outside the hotel. The owner of the hotel was reported to have been killed by the militants.

A Somali police captain, Mohamed Hussein, praised the efforts of the hotel guests, stating that the death toll could have been higher.

“Had it not been for the courage of some of the hotel residents who fought back the terrorists, the death toll could have been a lot higher than it is now.”

“They came in firing bullets randomly and chanting God is great — they shot anyone they could see,” Ahmed Abdulle, a hotel resident who survived the ordeal, was quoted.

In addition to claiming responsibility for the Sahafi Hotel attack on their website, al-Shabab’s Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu-Musab is reported to have made announcements claiming responsibility via a radio broadcast. The hotel is said to be popular with government officials and business people in Somalia.

A pair of French agents were reportedly abducted from the Sahafi in 2009.

A Somali MP and General were killed in an attack on a Mogadishu hotel. [Screenshot via Reuters/YouTube]Al-Shabab, which means “The Youth” in Arabic, according to the BBC, controlled Mogadishu until 2011 and the Somali port of Kismayo until 2012. Losing control of the port city of Kismayo has been speculated to have hurt the finances of al-Shabab. The group is said to have 7,000 to 9,000 members.

The militant Islamic group advocates Wahhabi Islam, while most of Somalia is reported to be Sufi. Al-Shabab leadership has “pledged allegiance” to the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Shabab is suspected to have links with Boko Haram as well.

On April 2, al-Shabab attacked the Garissa University in Kenya killing 147. The operation was reported to have specifically targeted Christian students. In 2013, al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan shopping center and took the lives of 68. In the Nairobi shopping center attack, militants were were reported to have shot Muslims who couldn’t remember verses from the Koran.

Somalia’s current government is supported by the United Nations, but has been described as “weak,” and that the country has not been effectively governed for over “20 years.” Some basic services, such as streetlights and garbage collection, are said to have been restored to Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab has been forced out of most Somali town and cities, but the group is reported to still have a strong influence in rural regions. In addition to Somali forces, African Union and Kenyan Forces are reported to operate within Somalia, battling al-Shabab. Al-Shabab is said to also operate in Kenya and to have a particularly strong influence in the port city of Mombasa.

[Feature Screenshot via Reuters/YouTube]