Al-Shabaab attacked the Afrik Hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. The attack left at least five Somali civilians and all four al-Shabaab gunmen dead. Former defense minister, Mohamed Nur Galal was among the victims, a Mogadishu police official told CNN. Many senior Somali government officials and military officers were also present at the time of the attack.
At least 15 people were injured in the fighting and are being treated at local hospitals; a hundred people were successfully evacuated.
In a statement on Twitter offering his condolences, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble also acknowledged Galal’s death.
“I condemn the barbaric attack. May Allah have mercy on all those who died. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the heinous terror attack in Hotel Afrik including Gen. Mohamed Nur Galal who served his country with valor for over 50 years,” Roble said in a tweet. “This attack is yet another reminder of the savage enemy we face. We must unite against terror.”
“The operation is over now. Nine people, including four attackers, died and over 10 civilians were injured. There is no electricity,” police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali told the news media via Facebook.
The attack in Mogadishu’s Afrik Hotel began at 5:00 p.m. Despite the fact that the hotel is heavily guarded, the terrorists were able to blast its gated front entrance with a car-borne bomb and penetrate the building.
Then, the al-Shabaab gunmen used hand-thrown and rocket-propelled grenades to attack the hotel and the Somali troops sent to root them out.
It took several hours for the Somali troops to clear out the insurgents and safely evacuate hotel guests and workers. Of the terrorists, three were shot dead and one detonated an explosive device killing himself.
“We know, [al-Shabaab has] changed nothing from [its] usual tactic, ramming explosives into a building and following up, assaulting with rifles,” added Ali.
The hotel is located by the strategic K-4 road junction on the main security checkpoint to the Mogadishu airport. It is frequented by members of parliament, politicians, and security officials, but not foreigners. It is also in the same area where many of the Western embassies, including that of the United States, are located.
The road to the airport was reopened on Monday morning as the Somalis worked to clear the rubble from the front of the hotel following the fighting.
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, seeks to overthrow the war-torn East African country’s government. It claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement broadcast by Andalus Radio, its official channel, as well as its Somalimemo website.
The terrorist group frequently carries out bombings in its war against Somalia’s internationally-recognized government, which is backed by UN and African Union peacekeeping troops. U.S. troops have recently been removed from the country despite the strategic importance of Somalia in the fight against al-Shabaab.
Attacks are frequent in Somalia: In December, a vehicle-borne IED killed 85 people in Mogadishu and another hotel bombing in Kismayo in July killed 26 people.
In a separate incident on Sunday, at least eight children were killed and scores wounded when a bomb went off in the Golweyn area, about 75 miles south of Mogadishu.