Al-Shabab siege of Mogadishu hotel ends: Police

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
5 min read

A siege by al-Shabab militants at a popular hotel near the presidential palace in the Somali capital Mogadishu ended on Friday after more than 13 hours with all the gunmen killed, a police officer told AFP.

Armed fighters had stormed the SYL hotel in a hail of bullets late on Thursday, with al-Shabab claiming responsibility in a brief statement.

“All the terrorist gunmen were killed, and the situation has returned to normal now. The security forces are carrying out a thorough clearance and investigations,” police officer Abdirahim Yusuf told AFP.

Sporadic explosions and gunfire had rung out early on Friday from the hotel, the target of several previous attacks by the militant group.

There has been no official casualty toll from the attack, which took place during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, and no official comment from the government.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“There is no gunfire now and the security forces are controlling the building. I saw some senior government officials in a convoy entering the building,” said witness Saadak Mohamed.

The assault broke a relative lull in violence by the al-Qaeda-linked group, demonstrating its continued ability to strike despite a major military offensive against the militants.

“Several gunmen forced their way into the building after destroying the perimeter wall with a heavy explosion,” security officer Ahmed Dahir told AFP.

Witnesses described hearing the assailants shoot indiscriminately.

“I don’t know about the casualties but there were many people inside when the attack started,” said Hassan Nur, who escaped by scaling a wall.

Other witnesses said that police arrived at the hotel within minutes of the attack, triggering a fierce gun battle.

Abdullahi Hassan, who was at a nearby house, said that the officers arrived in multiple vehicles and that ambulances carried away wounded people.

‘Still active and resilient’

The same hotel has been hit by al-Shabab several times in the past, most recently in 2019 when five people were killed.

The SYL is close to the Villa Somalia government complex, a high-security area that includes the presidential palace, the prime minister’s office and ministry buildings.

“It is a highly significant attack that shatters a sense of calm in Mogadishu that has developed in recent months following some security reforms,” said Omar Mahmood, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG), noting that in the past al-Shabab assaults had increased during Ramadan.

“It also serves as a signal from al-Shabab that despite much heralded efforts by this government to weaken them, the group remains active and resilient, and even able to hit the government close to home.”

Al-Shabab has been waging war against the federal government for more than 16 years and has often targeted hotels, which tend to host high-ranking Somali and foreign officials.

Although al-Shabab was driven out of the capital by an African Union force, it retains a strong presence in rural Somalia and has carried out numerous attacks against political, security and civilian targets.

The beleaguered central government launched a major offensive against them in August 2022, joining forces with local clan militias.

The army and militias known as “macawisley” have retaken swathes of territory in central Somalia in an operation backed by the AU mission known as ATMIS and US airstrikes.

But the offensive has suffered setbacks, with al-Shabab earlier this week claiming that it had taken control of multiple locations in the center of the country.

‘Unwavering resolve’

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met defense officials on Thursday at a “strategic meeting” to establish a plan to reclaim the lost territory, Somali national news agency SONNA reported.

“The president commended the valiant efforts of Somali forces and emphasized the government's unwavering resolve to eradicate terrorism,” it said.

In January, al-Shabab took a number of people hostage after a UN helicopter carrying nine passengers made an emergency landing in its territory.

In June last year, six civilians were killed in a six-hour siege at a beachside hotel in Mogadishu.

And in August 2022, 21 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a 30-hour siege on Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel.

In October 2022, 100 people lost their lives in twin car bombings in Mogadishu, the deadliest strike since Mohamud took office in May of that year.

Thursday’s attack comes days after the US slapped sanctions on 16 individuals and entities across the Horn of Africa and the Middle East that it accused of laundering money for al-Shabaab.

Read more:

Al-Shabab claims attack that killed three UAE troops, a Bahraini officer in Somalia

Al-Qaeda Yemen branch announces death of leader Khalid Batarfi, names successor

ISIS poses rising threat in Africa despite counter-terror measures, UN experts say

Top Content Trending