Islamist attack underway at Mogadishu hotel: Somali govtFri, 09 Jun 2023 21:21:46 GMT

Rebels from the Islamist Al-Shabaab group were attacking a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Friday, the government and witnesses said.Attackers targeted a hotel at a beach often visited by officials, according to a government statement. “The security forces rescued many people from the building and the operation is still ongoing,” it said.Al-Shabaab, which has been waging an insurgency against the internationally backed federal government for more than 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack.Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and explosions at the hotel on Lido beach, where the government said civilians “were spending time to rest”.”I was near the Pearl Beach restaurant when (a) heavy explosion occurred in front of the building,” witness Abdirahim Ali told AFP.”I have managed to flee but there was heavy gunfire afterwards and the security forces rushed to the area.”Yaasin Nur was at the restaurant and told AFP it was “full of people as it was recently renovated”.”I’m worried because there are several of my colleagues who went there and two of them are not responding to their phones,” he said.Al-Shabaab has been driven out of Somalia’s main towns and cities but retains power in large swathes of rural areas, and continues to carry out attacks against security and civilian targets, including in the capital.Hotels have often been targeted in the past as they tend to host high-ranking Somali and foreign officials.The rebels, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, launched a large-scale attack against a hotel at Lido beach in 2020, killing 10 civilians and a police officer.The security forces took four hours to regain control over the site.- ‘All-out war’ -The latest attack highlights the endemic security problems in the Horn of Africa country as it struggles to emerge from decades of conflict and natural disasters. Last year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched an “all-out war” against Al-Shabaab, rallying Somalis to help flush out members of the jihadist group he described as “bedbugs”.His pledge came after 21 people were killed and 117 others were wounded in an Al-Shabaab siege on a Mogadishu hotel in August 2022 that lasted 30 hours.The attack raised serious questions about the security forces, who failed to protect a heavily guarded administrative district.In October 2022, twin car bombings in Mogadishu killed 121 people and injured 333, in the country’s deadliest attack in five years.The army and militias known as “macawisley” have in recent months retaken swathes of territory in the centre of the country in an operation backed by the African Union mission ATMIS and US air strikes.But Al-Shabaab fighters killed 54 Ugandan peacekeepers in an attack on an African Union base in the southern town of Bulo Marer last month.