Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia and East Africa, killed and wounded several members of the Somali government, including several senior officials in a suicide attack at a hotel in the capital of Mogadishu this afternoon.
The attack began as a car packed with explosives was detonated outside of the Central Hotel, a gathering place for Somali parliamentarians and members of government, Garowe reported. A suicide bomber used the resulting chaos to enter the hotel and detonate his explosive vest inside of a mosque.
Two members of parliament and the deputy governor of Banadir were among 10 people reported killed in the attack. Somalia’s deputy prime minister and minister for marine transportation were also wounded, according to Reuters.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, claimed credit for the attack. “We targeted government officials in the hotel; this is part of our operation in Mogadishu,” he told Reuters.
The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by al Qaeda and its branches as well as allied groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.
Shabaab routinely targets hotels in the Somali capital as these are often meeting places for government officials and foreigners. 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 the past, Shabaab has shown it can penetrate security at the heavily protected areas in the capital and carry out deadly attacks. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Somali government and military officials, and nongovernmental organizations have been the target of Shabaab suicide assaults and bombings. Last year, Shabaab attacked the parliament, the president’s compound, and a high security intelligence headquarters. In June 2013, a Shabaab team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu; several UNDP employees were killed and Shabaab briefly took over the compound. And in September of 2012, three suicide bombers attacked Somalia’s president and Kenya’s foreign minister as they were speaking at a hotel in Mogadishu.
Today’s assault in Mogadishu serves as a reminder that the group is far from defeated, despite claims to the contrary by some in the Somali government. While the current media focus is on the Islamic State’s spectacular gains in both Iraq and Syria, Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, have controlled extensive areas of Somalia, including major cities, several times since 2006. Even today, Shabaab controls large portions of the countryside in southern and central Somalia, and still runs some towns and cities. An African Union offensive by forces from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Kenya has managed to drive Shabaab from the major cities of Mogadishu and Kismayo, but three years after the start of the offensive, Shabaab still controls vast portions of Somalia.
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