Shabaab boasts of Mogadishu bombings that killed 11

A firefighter looks at a destroyed car at the scene of an explosion outside the Jazeera hotel in Mogadishu, January 1, 2014. (Reuters)

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab said Thursday it carried out a twin bombing of a hotel in Mogadishu that killed 11, boasting it was the start of its campaign for the new year, Agence France-Presse reported.

“This is the beginning of 2014,” al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said in a New Year message, a day after the hotel attacks.

“The fate of foreigners and local mercenaries will remain the same until they leave the country... they will have no safe haven in Somalia.”

The Islamist rebel group al-Shabaab has carried out a campaign of attacks over the past two and a half years in Mogadishu.

In a radio message Tuesday, a senior al-Shabab commander warned civilians to stay away from government buildings as well as sites controlled or owned by foreigners. The commander, Ali Mohammed Hussein, said attacks were imminent in Mogadishu.

At least 11 people were killed after three bombs exploded within an hour outside a hotel frequented by government officials in a heavily fortified district of the Somali capital on Wednesday.

Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of a private ambulance service, told Reuters at least 11 people had been killed and 17 others were wounded.

Gen. Abdihakim Saed, Somalia’s police chief, told a local radio station two men who appeared to be suicide bombers also died during the attack when they tried to force their way into the Jazeera Hotel as the cars exploded, and security forces shot and killed them, the Associated Press reported.

“A booby-trapped car exploded against hotel Jazeera,” near a United Nations complex, police officer Muhidin Ahmed told AFP. “It appears to be a suicide attack.”

The second car bomb ripped through the blast scene as ambulances rushed in and Somali soldiers were helping the wounded.

“Another car loaded with explosives went off as security forces were trying to assist victims,” police officer Mohamed Warsame said.

“I counted eight bodies, most of them soldiers,” said witness Abdikarim Hassan.

The first two bombs came in quick succession and were followed by heavy bursts of gunfire by Somali security forces. The third blast took place about an hour later when a bomb went off inside a car that was being searched by the military.

The Jazeera Hotel has been the target of previous terrorist attacks. In September 2012, it was the scene of an assassination attempt on Somalia’s president on his second day in office.

Despite Somalia having a near 18,000-strong African peacekeeping force, and donors pumping pump in hundreds of millions of dollars into the Horn of Africa country every year to provide basic services, militants still penetrate the seaside capital to carry out suicide attacks.

The African forces have also helped drive al-Shabaab out of the capital in August 2011, as well as other major urban centers, but the militants still hold sway over swathes of rural areas.

“This year, 2014 is going to be the strengthening of Somali forces and the elimination of the extremists,” the newly appointed Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kenya

Meanwhile, neighboring Kenya has been the scene of multiple terrorist attacks since the country sent its military to Somalia in 2011 to fight al-Shabab.

In September, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people. Al-Shabab said it was in retribution for Kenya’s involvement in Somalia.

On Thursday, 10 people were wounded when attackers hurled a grenade into a restaurant in a popular coastal tourist resort town in Kenya, police said.

“We had an explosion at the bar and about 10 people were injured,” said Jack Ekakuro, the local police chief in the Indian Ocean town of Diani, south of Mombasa.


(With Reuters, Associated Press and AFP)

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