Shabaab targets popular Mogadishu beach resort


Shabaab fighters after taking over an African Union base in southern Somalia last week

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in East Africa, continued its spate of attacks by targeting a popular beach front hotel and restaurant in a coordinated assault in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia, two days ago. A subsequent hours-long gun battle left at least 20 people dead and 17 wounded.

The suicide assault, like many similar attacks on Mogadishu hotels, began on Jan. 21 with a suicide car bomb near the entrance of the Beach View Hotel on Lido Beach. At least four gunmen then stormed into the complex and began shooting, according to Al Jazeera. Additionally, another suicide bomber struck a nearby seafood restaurant, and more gunmen stormed that building. According to CNN, some jihadists arrived after coming ashore from boats, but that has not been confirmed.

The al Qaeda-branch quickly took responsibility for this attack, posting on one of its Telegram accounts that a “commando operation” was targeting the Beach View Hotel, “where government employees frequent.” Al Jazeera also reports that the jihadist group called the news network to claim responsibility, as well.

Somalia’s security minister reportedly claimed the alleged commander of the attacks was captured alive by security forces.

The Somali al Qaeda branch has a long history of targeting popular hotels in Mogadishu. In November, Shabaab’s “Sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi Martyrdom Brigade” attacked the Al Sahafi hotel in Somalia’s capital with two suicide car bombs and an assault team. That attack left at least 15 people dead.

Last March, the jihadist group stormed a hotel and briefly seized control of it before the attackers were killed by security forces. On Feb. 20, a suicide assault team hit the Central Hotel, a gathering place for Somali parliamentarians and other members of government, killing several senior Somali politicians. On Jan. 22, Shabaab claimed credit for the bombing at the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu that killed three people. The attack took place as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a delegation were at the hotel.

In July, Shabaab killed more than 10 people after storming the Jazeera Hotel. The jihadist group previously targeted this hotel in early 2014. In that attack. Shabaab launched a complex assault on the hotel, exploding three bombs within an hour of each other and killing 11 people. In September 2012, the group also sent three suicide bombers to attack Somalia’s new president and Kenya’s foreign minister as they were speaking at the hotel. The two officials escaped unhurt, but at least seven people were killed.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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