SOMALI troops have regained control of a hotel in Mogadishu that Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed and occupied for more than 12 hours, which left at least 17 people dead and dozens wounded.
The attack started on Friday night when the militants detonated a car bomb at the gate of Hotel Maka Al-Mukarrama in Mogadishu, before entering the compound and indiscriminately firing automatic weapons, Mohammed Said, a police officer said on Friday.
The militants remained holed up in the hotel’s alleys and rooms until early Saturday, when Somali troops stormed in and seized control.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to Radio Andalus, and on social media, the group claimed it was targeting “apostates”.
It’s the second time in less than two weeks that the hotel, popular with government officials, has been targeted.
Six Islamist militants were killed, according to government sources.
Four government soldiers, an American woman originally from Somalia and Somalia’s ambassador to Switzerland, were among those killed in the attack, said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
More than 20 people were injured, including Somalia’s ambassador to Germany
Information minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareye said the attackers were armed with hand grenades and knives, which they wanted to use to behead victims.
Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in the Somalia since 2006; but lost some ground since being driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 by a coalition of Somali and African Union forces, and has been fighting hard to regain control in southern Somalia, and to have international clout as well.
At a crossroads
The terror group routinely carries out suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in Mogadishu, the seat of the country’s transitional government — often targeting government troops and members of Parliament.
Al-Shabaab has been at a crossroads lately, divided as to whether to shift its allegiance to the Islamic State over Al-Qaeda, and the latest strike, as it seeks to revitalise its jihadist credentials in the wake of the killings of several of its high-ranking officials by US drone strikes.
The group was behind the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in neighbouring Kenya’s capital Nairobi which left at least 67 people dead, and recently issued a call for fresh attacks against such locations.
Just a day before the Mogadishu hotel attack, Uganda said it was boosting security over threats from Al-Shabaab, after the US embassy in Kampala warned its citizens of a possible imminent terror attack.
Last week a senior figure, Adan Garar, who was linked to the planning of the Westgate attack as well as attempts to attack Kampala, was killed in a drone strike..