An attack by the Shebab from a hotel in the center safe from Mogadishu near the presidential palace was underway on Sunday evening, showing the ability of radical Islamists to continue to strike at the Somali power, which declared “total war” on it. “A group of shebab fighters attacked a hotel in Bondhere district tonight (and) security forces are engaged to eliminate them,” National Police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said in a statement.
Explosions and heavy gunfire
Many civilians and politicians have already been rescued and evacuated from this establishment, the Villa Rose, he added. “I was near the Villa Rose when two strong explosions shook the hotel. There was heavy shooting. The area was cordoned off and I saw people fleeing,” said a witness, Aadan Hussein, from Mogadishu.
Shebab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group that has been trying to overthrow Somalia’s central government for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack. The Villa Rose hotel is a popular place for Somali MPs, located in the central safe area of Mogadishu, not far from the office of the country’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.
“The safest accommodation in Mogadishu”,
On its website, Villa Rose is described there as “the safest accommodation in Mogadishu”, with metal detectors and a high perimeter wall. The African Union Force in Somalia (Atmis) condemned the attack and “commended” on Twitter “the Somali security forces for their rapid response to prevent further casualties and property damage”.
This new attack comes as the recently elected Somali president, in May, decided to start a “total war” against the Shebab for three months. The Somali army, supported by local clans, by Atmis, and with the support of American air strikes, thus regaining control of the province of Hiran and large areas of Middle Shabelle, in the center of the country.
Series of bloody attacks
But the insurgents retaliated with a series of bloody attacks, underscoring their ability to strike at the heart of Somali cities and military installations. On October 29, two cars packed with explosives exploded within minutes of each other in Mogadishu, killing 121 people and injuring 333 others. The deadliest attack in five years in this fragile country in the Horn of Africa.
A triple bombing in central Beledweyne also left 30 people dead, including local officials, in early October, and at least 21 guests of a hotel in Mogadishu were killed during a 30-hour siege in August.
According to the UN, at least 613 civilians have already been killed and 948 injured in violence this year in Somalia, mainly caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) attributed to Al-Shabaab. The highest numbers since 2017, and up more than 30% from last year.