Shabab Kill 31 and Take Hostages in Somalia’s Capital

by Hussein Mohamed | Thursday, Jun 15, 2017 | 156 views

SOUCRE: NYT: MOGADISHU, Somalia — An assault by militants in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, began Wednesday evening with a car bombing at the gates of a hotel popular with foreigners and continued with gunfire at a nearby restaurant.

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Carrying away the body of a civilian who was killed in the attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, overnight on Thursday. CreditFarah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press

The death toll rose on Thursday to 31 people, according to local officials and the emergency services. Special forces rescued more than 50 hostages, the state news media reported.

The attack occurred less than a week after militants from the Shabab extremist group killed dozens of people — both soldiers and civilians, including children — when they stormed a military base in northeastern Somalia.

On their website, the Shabab took responsibility for the violence on Wednesday, which started at the Posh Hotel in downtown Mogadishu. After a car bomb exploded at the hotel’s gates, gunmen fanned out to the Pizza House restaurant.

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The scene on Thursday after the attack on a hotel and restaurant in Mogadishu. CreditReuters

Many people, including visitors from Ethiopia and Kenya, had been enjoying a night out.

“I saw several people lying on the ground,” said Yusuf Warsame, a freelance photojournalist who went to the scene. “I personally counted the dead bodies of six people, including a young woman.”

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A mother whose daughter was shot in the head by attackers. CreditFarah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press

It was not known how many people were being held captive early Thursday, but the Shabab, who have links to Al Qaeda, are known for killing hostages, not holding them for ransom.

The Shabab have been fighting the United Nations-backed government in Mogadishu for years, seeking to impose their strict interpretation of Islam. They have also been behind attacks in Uganda and Kenya, including the Westgate Mall siege in Nairobi in 2013. Recently, they have carried out a series of attacks in Kenya, killing dozens.

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Although they have suffered defeats, including the deaths of leaders and loss of territory, the Shabab’s ability to inflict harm remains undiminished. Devastating attacks on hotels have been one of their trademarks.

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The Shabab militant group took responsibility for the attack. CreditFarah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press

Last Sunday, the United States military carried out a drone strike in southern Somalia against the Shabab, the first since President Trump relaxed some of the rules for preventing civilian casualties when the Pentagon carries out counterterrorism strikes in the country.

The strike, which the military said had targeted the command and logistics portion of a Shabab camp, came two and a half months after Mr. Trump cleared the way for offensive strikes in Somalia, a chaotic nation in the Horn of Africa, without a specific self-defense rationale.

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