Somalia attack: Hostage crisis after suicide bomber and gunmen target hotel in Mogadishu

Police said gun battles were ongoing on Saturday afternoon

Lizzie Dearden
Saturday 25 June 2016 15:07 BST
Al-Shabab recruits walk the streets of the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab recruits walk the streets of the Somalian capital, Mogadishu. (AFP)

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A suicide bomber and gunmen have stormed a hotel in Mogadishu, where an unknown number of guests and staff were being held hostage.

A huge blast rocked the Somali capital on Saturday afternoon as a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb, before militants entered the building, police said.

Witnesses said at least four bodies were seen outside the Hotel Naso Hablod as gun battles with police continued.

The car bomb was detonated at its gates and a second explosion was heard inside the building.

A police official, Mohamed Hussein, told the Associated Press the attackers “took positions behind blast walls and sandbags; fighting is still ongoing”.

Ali Mohamud, who managed to escape, said they started shooting guests at random.

“They were shooting at everyone they could see. I escaped through the back door,” he added.

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, were the immediate suspects following a string of similar attacks on hotels by its members.

“They started with a suicide bomb and then stormed in. Now they are inside and the heavy exchange of gunfire continues,” Major Nur Farah told Reuters. “It is too early to give details."

Like other Islamist groups, al-Shabaab often intensifies its attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is currently being observed around the world.

There have been several attacks on hotels in Somalia and other countries in Africa where Islamist groups are active, particularly targeting those known to host foreign tourists, politicians and diplomats.

In Mogadishu, at least 15 people were killed in an attack on the Ambassador Hotel earlier this month, the Somali Youth League (SYL) hotel was targeted in February, a restaurant on Lido beach in January and the Jazeera Palace hotel in July 2015.

Somali security forces are launching multiple operations against al-Shabaab fighters, announcing the deaths of 17 militants including the head of their intelligence unit and a Mohamud Ali Dulyadeyn, also known as Mohamed Mohamud, who was suspected of orchestrating an attack on Kenya's Garissa university earlier this month.

Al-Shabaab, which is fighting an insurgency aiming to topple Somalia's government, was driven out of Mogadishu by the African Union force Amisom in 2011, and was ousted from strongholds elsewhere in the south last year.

A new terror group called Jahba East Africa emerged in the country in April, pledging allegiance to Isis and threatening a "new era" of terror in the region.

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