SOMALIA’S al-Qa’ida-linked al-Shabab group stormed a hotel in Mogadishu and shot 30 people dead last night, among them six members of parliament.

They then blew themselves up to avoid arrest.

The brazen attack, just a stone’s throw from the presidential palace, was the deadliest of its kind against high-ranking officials from the Western-backed transitional federal government since the al-Shabab launched an offensive to conquer Mogadishu last year.

“They have no motive other than to terrorise the Somali people. This is a deplorable act in this holy month of Ramadan. It shows their brutality and lack of respect for humanity,” Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow said last night.

A parliamentarian who was at the hotel said there were “dead bodies all over” and he called the scene a massacre.

Officials visiting the scene of the carnage flinched from the stench of burned flesh and smoke.

Witnesses and hotel staff said the attackers had been wearing government security uniforms and shot dead security guards at the gate to the compound as they rushed into the three-storey building.

“They rained gunfire on everybody. Nobody stood a chance. I was lucky because they aimed at me, but I jumped out of the window and survived,” hotel employee Adan Mohamed said.

“People were screaming, there was total panic. When they decided they had finished killing everybody, they climbed to the balcony and started opening fire on government forces outside the hotel,” he added.

A Somali government official, Abdirahman Haji Adan Ibbi, confirmed that 30 people had died in the ambush, six of them members of the Somali parliament and four, Somali government civil servants. “The 20 others are innocent civilians who died in this horrible incident,” he said. Among the dead were an 11-year-old shoeshine boy and a woman selling tea in front of the hotel.

The assault comes after al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, declared a “massive war” on “invaders” — an apparent reference to the 6000 troops from the African Union that protect the weak Somali government.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility last month for twin bombings in Uganda’s capital that killed 76 people, saying the attacks were in retaliation for Uganda’s deployment of troops with the African Union.

The Muna Hotel was crowded with Somali officials at the time of the attack. Parliamentarians often live at Mogadishu hotels while in the capital city.

Since Monday, fighting in Somalia’s capital has killed at least 40 civilians and wounded more than 130, said Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service.

“This operation is meant to eliminate the invading Christians and their apostate government in Somalia. The fighting will continue and, God willing, the mujaheddin will prevail,” al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage said on Monday as the offensive was launched.

Al-Shabab has increased the use of suicide attacks in recent years.

Comments

comments