Kismayo hotel raided by Shabaab

Picture from Kismayo, reportedly showing the smoke plume from the suicide car bomb on the Asasey Hotel.

Earlier today, Shabaab left at least 10 people dead when its men raided the Asasey Hotel in the southern Somali city of Kismayo.

Beginning with a suicide car bombing, Shabaab gunmen then rushed into the hotel and began shooting civilians. According to local officials, a regional minister and a legislator were killed in the fray. Two prominent Somali journalists were also reported killed.

Other fatalities reportedly include tribal elders who were meeting in the hotel at the time of the assault. Dozens of other people were left injured.

On its Shahada News Telegram channel, the al Qaeda branch claimed responsibility for the raid saying that its forces “targeted a hotel in which ministers, government officials, and officers of the security apparatus reside.”

As the attack was unfolding, the jihadist group also provided an update – reportedly relayed from the attackers in the hotel to their handlers – on the fighting with security forces. Shabaab claimed the gunmen “repelled four attempts” by Somali special forces to reclaim the hotel.

This claim has not been corroborated by independent media, however, it is not immediately clear if Somali security forces have cleared the hotel as of the time of publishing.

Striking hotels and other establishments popular with Somali or international government officials with a suicide assault is a common tactic of the jihadist group. This method has been utilized to target various hotels in Mogadishu, as well as governmental buildings.

In March, Shabaab conducted a suicide assault on the Maka al Mukamara hotel in Mogadishu. At least 30 people were killed in the strike before Somali security forces retook the hotel.

While not to the same scale of the raid in Kismayo, the Islamic State’s branch in Somalia (ISS) also claimed an attack on a Somali hotel today. In the northern city of Bosaso, ISS said its men attacked police officers outside of the Safa hotel.

Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union (AU) and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost in both central and southern Somalia – often after AU or Somali forces withdrew.

In addition, Shabaab remains a potent threat against both African Union and Somali military bases in central and southern Somalia.

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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