Shabab Attack on Somali Hotel Ends With 21 Dead, Officials Say
NAIROBI, Kenya — A 30-hour siege by Shabab militants at an upscale hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has left 21 people dead and more than 100 wounded, government officials said.
It was a busy evening at the Hayat Hotel on Friday, with friends arriving to socialize, businesspeople dining together and families unwinding after a long week. But just after 7 p.m. local time on Friday, the militants barged in, seizing the premises, killing patrons and setting off a battle with security officers that finally ended Sunday morning.
When it was all over, 21 people had been killed and 117 others wounded, according to the Somali health minister, Ali Haji Adan. Fifteen of those wounded were in critical condition, Abshir Axmad, the state minister at the president’s office, said in an interview.
The Somali police commissioner, Maj. Gen. Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar, also said in a separate news conference on Sunday that 106 people, including children, were rescued from the hotel.
The attack was the first complex and sustained assault carried out by Al Shabab in the Somali capital since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was picked as president in May. It also joined a long list of deadly strikes on hotels, restaurants and public spaces in Mogadishu over the past decade and a half, in which hundreds of civilians lost their lives in a city trying to rebuild after a devastating civil war. The offensive also underscored how the Shabab continue to pose a threat to the stability of Somalia even in the face of high-level defections and increasing recent airstrikes by the United States.
“It is a terrible and sad day for Somalia and the Somali people,” Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, a Somali lawmaker, said in a phone interview, adding that 11 members of his clan were killed in the attack. “It is sad that these terrorists continue to shed people’s blood so easily.”
The United Nations along with countries including Kuwait and Turkey condemned the attack on Saturday. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, deplored the siege, too, saying in a statement that the United States would continue to support Somalia in its “efforts to counter terrorism and build a secure and prosperous future.”
On Sunday, security forces began clearing the area, but Mr. Axmad said the hotel was still laden with unexploded bombs from the militants. It was not immediately clear how many militants went into the hotel, and officials did not respond to questions about that.
Photos and video from the scene showed parts of the yellow structure’s roof completely damaged, along with bullet holes and soot covering collapsed balconies. While covering the events near the scene on Sunday, a police officer injured a Somali journalist, according to the Somali Journalists Syndicate, an independent journalists’ union. It was not immediately clear what led to the shooting, and the police have not commented on the episode.
The assault in Mogadishu comes as Somalia faces a severe drought, escalating food prices and soaring hunger levels. More than seven million people, about half of the country’s population, are facing acute food insecurity, while 213,000 others are already facing famine-like conditions, according to the World Food Program.
Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.