Gunmen storm beachside hotel in Somali capital
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By Omar Faruk and Max Bearak
MOGADISHU - Militants detonated a car bomb in front of an upscale hotel in the Somali capital Sunday afternoon, then stormed the beachside property. As night fell, state security forces remained engaged in a gun battle to retake it.
A spokesman for the country's Information Ministry said one of its officials was confirmed to have been killed. Abdulkadir Adan, the director of Aamin Ambulance, a private company that is often the first at the scenes of attacks, said 28 injured people so far had been transported to hospitals from the Elite Hotel on Lido Beach.
"We lost one of our colleagues, named Abdirizak Abdi," said Ismail Omar, the ministry spokesman. "The blast was huge and followed by a gunshots, and we are still collecting more information."
Omar said there were four assailants, adding that two were killed at the hotel's gate and two remained inside, armed with automatic rifles.
Sieges of hotels are a hallmark tactic of al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-affiliated armed group that controls vast parts of rural Somalia and regularly stages attacks in Somali cities. As of Sunday evening, al-Shabab had not claimed responsibility for the ongoing attack.
In March 2019, al-Shabab fighters held another Mogadishu hotel for 20 hours, killing 25 people and wounding dozens. Three months earlier, the group laid siege to a hotel in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and killed 21.
Al-Shabab extracts hefty "taxes" from hotel owners as part of a far-reaching protection racket it runs across the country as a means of raising funds and undermining government control. The group's largest recent attack was in December, when it detonated a truck bomb at a busy intersection, killing 82. A week later, it carried out one of its most daring attacks ever, overrunning a military base in Kenya where gunmen killed a US serviceman and two American military contractors.
The US military has ramped up an aggressive campaign of drone strikes against al-Shabab in part thanks to a relaxation of rules of engagement by the Trump administration in 2017. The number of strikes has increased each year, eclipsing earlier efforts under presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, but al-Shabab has maintained its ability to regularly unleash large and deadly attacks.
The Washington Post