MOGADISHU– Militants stormed a high-end seaside hotel in Mogadishu on Sunday, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 20, in the second attack by Islamist insurgents on a highly fortified target in the Somali capital this week.
Militant group al Shabaab claimed the attack on the Elite Hotel in Lido beach, which started with a suicide car bombing. Its gunmen later battled security forces.
The hotel is owned by Abdullahi Mohamed Nor, a lawmaker and ex-finance minister and frequented by many government officials, government workers and people from the Somali diaspora.
“There were officials of (President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s) government inside the hotel when we attacked,” said a statement broadcast on al Shabaab’s Radio Andalus.
The attack follows an uprising at Mogadishu’s central prison on Monday. State news agency SONNA reported that at least 15 prisoners and four guards were killed when Somali security forces beat back the rebellion.
A witness, Ahmed Ali, said on Sunday he had heard “a huge blast at the hotel, gunfire followed, and then clouds of smoke”.
“So far we confirmed seven people died, including two attackers, two junior directors and three civilians,” information ministry spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar told Reuters.
“Fifteen people were injured and the operation is still going on.”
Aamin ambulance service head Abdikadir Abdirahman had earlier told Reuters the service had transported 28 injured people from the scene before exchanges of gunfire started.
Hotel owner Nor posted on his Facebook page after escaping the building: “May Allah have mercy on all those who died in the attack by the terrorists on civilians particularly on Elite Hotel in which I was in.”
Mohamed Nur, a government worker who lives near Lido beach, said government security forces had been deployed to stop the attack. “The exchange of gunfire is terrible and stray bullets reached us near the beach,” he added.
Somalia has been embroiled in deadly violence since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew leader Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
Since 2008, al Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-recognised central government and establish its rule based on its own interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.