Gunmen Attack Mogadishu Hotel Leaving At Least 15 Dead

Gunmen attacked a Mogadishu hotel on Saturday, taking guests hostage and shooting at everyone randomly before security forces killed the assailants on the top floor and ended the hours-long assault.

Massive blasts and heavy gunfire rocked the Naso Hablod hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, as gunmen fought their way inside, leaving dozens dead and injured, according to reports. The casualties include civilians and hotel guards. At least four gunmen took part in the attack.

A view of the Nasa-hablod Hotel, destroyed after a bomb attack
Al Jazeera quoted sources in Mogadishu as saying a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the gate of a Mogadishu hotel, followed by a second explosion heard inside the hotel as gunmen fought their way inside.

Suspicion fell on the militant group, Al-Shabaab, which often targets Western interests in Mogadishu in its bid to topple the Western-backed government. The group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack on the hotel.

Following the assault on the Mogadishu hotel, Al-Shabaab military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, reportedly informed Reuters about the group’s involvement saying, they attacked the Naso Hablod hotel frequented by the “apostate” government officials and that his fighters were inside the building.

Reportedly, a suicide attacker laden with explosives led the assault, the latest by the group notorious for targeting hotels and restaurants in recent months. The Naso Hablod hotel in southern Mogadishu is a popular hub for politicians and tourists.

Then, a gun battle broke out between the suspected attackers and security forces who managed to hunt down the attackers and end the hours-long assault. While security forces have rescued most of the hostages, it is not clear whether any have died during the assault.

The Toronto Star quoted police officer Mohamed Hussein as saying, “We have finally ended the siege. The last remaining militants were killed on the top floor.”

Security forces combed through the bullet-ridden dark hotel rooms in Mogadishu, searching for explosives and looking for possible threats.

According to Reuters, the reported death toll from the attack is at least 15. Reportedly, the operations against the militants have ended, but security forces are still combing the building to remove risks.

Saturday’s attack on the Mogadishu hotel followed just three weeks after another assault on the city’s Ambassador Hotel, which left 10 dead when a massive car bomb ripped through the building.

The attack also comes during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are observing a month-long fast. The attacks, reportedly, have increased during the Ramadan, just before dawn or just after dusk, when faithful gather to break their daily fast.

Apart from Mogadishu, Shabaab militants have carried repeated attacks in neighboring Kenya, which include the death of at least 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 and the massacre of 148 people at a university in Garissa in April 2015.

The Somalian government, with the help of African Union forces, is fighting Al-Shabaab in several pockets of the country. However, the al-Qaeda-linked group remains a threat and often carries out attacks in the city.

The militants allegedly want to convert Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state. They continue to target international aid workers, journalists, civilian leaders, and African Union peacekeepers.

Following years of conflict, Somalia is preparing for parliamentary and presidential elections later this year. Western countries, including the United States, have invested heavily in Mogadishu to regain normalcy.

The latest attack in Mogadishu, at a hotel, speaks of the challenges facing the Somali government and African Union forces that are struggling to secure the conflict-ridden country. Further, the African Union is facing a resource crunch after the European Union recently cut its funding to the AU mission in Somalia by 20 percent.

[Photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP Images]