Shabaab claims series of suicide bombings in Mogadishu

Following a series of deadly suicide car bombs inside Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Friday, al Qaeda’s East African branch, Shabaab, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Initial reports stated that at least 20 people were left dead and dozens others wounded from the blasts. This toll was later revised to over 50 killed and over 100 wounded.

On Friday, three suicide car bombs targeted the perimeter of the Sahafi hotel in Mogadishu. After the bombs were detonated, an assault team then tried to fight their way into the hotel. However, local media has reported that an intense firefight ensued, in which the attackers were killed. The suicide strike is a common tactic employed by Shabaab when it targets popular hotels and other targets inside Mogadishu.

Similar to other offensives, the jihadists attempted to disguise themselves as Somali security forces. Voice of America journalist Harun Maruf reported that at least two members of the assault team were wearing Somali military uniforms.

Shortly following the bombings, Shabaab released its claim of responsibility via its Shahada News Telegram channel. “Two martyrdom operations and a special forces attack on the Sahafi hotel in the center of Mogadishu, where government officers and officials reside, which was adopted by Shabaab,” the group’s short statement reads.

Despite only claiming responsibility for two suicide car bombs, three suicide car bombings have now been reported to have targeted the Sahafi hotel. A possible fourth suicide bombing targeting arriving medical personnel has also been reported.

The jihadist group has claimed several suicide bombings in the Somali capital in recent months. Last month, it claimed a suicide bombing on Italian troops in Mogadishu. In September, it claimed another suicide bombing outside Mogadishu’s Hodan District’s headquarters. Earlier in September, a suicide car bomb sped through a checkpoint outside the Hawlwadag district headquarters before detonating.

Shabaab has remained a persistent threat to the Somali government and neighboring countries despite efforts by both the African Union and the US to defeat it over the past decade. Over the last several years, the group has launched offensives that have killed hundreds of African Union forces from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Ethiopia. These Shabaab assaults have forced African Union troops to withdraw from several cities and towns in southern Somalia. Additionally, it retains the precise ability to strike in more heavily fortified areas of Mogadishu.

Update: Article has been updated with new information. 

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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