Six civilians and three members of the security forces were killed and ten civilians injured in the attack on a hotel in Mogadishu by a commando of radical Islamists shebab neutralized in the night from Friday to Saturday after six hours of siege, according to the Somali police.
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“Six civilians died in the attack […] and ten others were injured. Three courageous members of the security forces also died,” the police said in a statement, which said that 84 people who were in the Pearl Beach hotel were rescued and unharmed.
The attack, claimed by Islamist fighters close to Al-Qaeda, began shortly before 8:00 p.m. Friday (1700 GMT), when seven assailants stormed the Pearl Beach hotel on the Mogadishu seafront.
It ended around 2:00 a.m., according to the police, after exchanges of fire between the police and the attackers, who were all killed.
“Security forces managed to save 84 people, including women, children and the elderly,” the statement said.
Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency against the internationally-backed federal government for more than 15 years and has often targeted hotels, which usually host senior Somali and foreign officials.
Friday evening, witnesses contacted by AFP had reported heavy shooting near the establishment. Several ambulances were parked nearby, noted an AFP journalist.
“I was near the Pearl Beach restaurant when a loud explosion sounded in front of the building,” witness Abdirahim Ali told AFP. “I managed to escape, but then there was heavy gunfire and the security forces came in force.”
A “total war”
Yaasin Nur, who was nearby, said the hotel restaurant “was full of people, as it had recently been renovated”.
In August 2020, the shebabs launched a major attack on the Elite, another hotel on the Lido beach, killing ten civilians and a policeman. It took the security forces four hours to regain control of the establishment.
The Shebab, affiliated with Al-Qaeda and who demand the establishment of Islamic law in the country, have been fighting for more than fifteen years the federal government supported by the international community.
Driven out of the main cities of the country in 2011-2012, they remain firmly established in vast rural areas.
Somali President Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud declared a “total war” on them, and launched a military offensive in September, notably supported by American air strikes.
But the Shebab continue to carry out bloody attacks in retaliation, underlining their ability to strike at the heart of Somali cities and military installations.
On May 26, they attacked a base held by Ugandan soldiers from the African Union Force in Somalia (Atmis) in the south of the country, killing at least 54 soldiers.
On October 29, 2022, two car bombs exploded in Mogadishu, killing 121 people and injuring 333, the deadliest attack in five years in this country also affected by a historic drought.
A triple bomb attack in Beledweyne (center) also killed 30 people, including local officials, in early October and at least 21 guests of a hotel in Mogadishu were killed during a 30-hour siege in August.
The siege had raised questions about how Islamist militants managed to reach the closely guarded heart of Mogadishu’s administrative district undetected.
In a report to the UN Security Council in February, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres claimed that 2022 had been the deadliest year for civilians in Somalia since 2017, largely due to Al-Shabaab attacks.