Four Dead In Somalia Car Bomb

‘The blast was huge’, one witness said

 

Four people were killed in a car bombing in Somalia on Saturday that apparently targeted Turkish engineers working on a road near the capital Mogadishu, police and witnesses said.

The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, which has stepped up its activities in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya in recent weeks.

The bomb struck near the town of Afgoye about 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of the capital, killing four people and wounding several others including several Turkish nationals, said local police officer Abdirahman Adan.

“The blast was huge, it destroyed a container used by the Turkish engineers who work on the Afgoye road construction,” said witness Muhidin Yusuf.

“There were police who were guarding the Turkish engineers and several other people gathering near the checkpoint where the temporary shelter is located,” said another witness Ahmed Said.

“I saw the dead bodies of several (people) and Turkish workers who were wounded in the blast.”

The Islamist group, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government, has carried out a series of attacks in recent weeks including a massive car bombing in Mogadishu on December 28 that killed 81 people.

And on January 5, the jihadists stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, killing three Americans.

Last week, Al-Shabaab warned that Kenya will “never be safe”, threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.

Jihadists Kill Three Teachers In Kenya School Attack

Since the start of the year, the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab have stepped up their attacks in eastern Kenya, along the Somali border.

 

Suspected Al-Shabaab Islamists killed three teachers and kidnapped another at a primary school in eastern Kenya on Monday, police said, the latest in a spate of attacks in the region.

The assailants also torched a police post and damaged a telecoms mast in the attack in Kamuthe, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the town of Garissa.

At around 2am (2300 GMT Sunday) “suspected armed AS Militia attacked Kamuthe primary school, Kamuthe Police Post, a telecommunications mast and murdered 3 teachers”, a police statement said.

“The telecommunications mast is partially damaged but operational.”

A separate police report on the incidents seen by AFP said the three teachers killed were not from the region, and that a local teacher was abducted. The assailants spared a nurse as she was a woman.

“They also set fire” to the police post in Kamuthe, a senior police officer who asked not to be identified told AFP.

Since the start of the year, the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab have stepped up their attacks in eastern Kenya, along the Somali border, and Kenyan police have been on high alert.

On January 5, the Islamists stormed onto a US military base in the coastal Lamu region, destroying several aircraft and killing three Americans.

Two days later they killed four civilians, including a child, during an attack on a telecommunications mast near Garissa.

Al-Shabaab issued a statement last Wednesday warning that Kenya “will never be safe”, threatening tourists and US interests in the country.

The group said Kenya should withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance”.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.

This week Kenya marks a year since the January 15 siege of the upscale Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi left 21 dead. Previous attacks have killed 67 at the Westgate shopping centre in 2013 and 148 at Garissa University in 2015.

 

AFP

US military Says Three Killed In Kenya Jihadist Attack

 

A jihadist attack on a military base in Kenya killed three people Sunday, including a US service member and two civilian defense contractors, the American military said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (Africom), said after jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group stormed a base in the Lamu region.

Two other Department of Defense personnel were wounded in the attack on Camp Simba, Africom added in a statement which gave no details on the identity of those killed.

Somali Jihadists Attack Military Base In Kenya

 

 

Jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group on Sunday stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, destroying several aircraft and military vehicles, according to Kenyan police and army officials.

Attackers breached heavy security at Camp Simba at dawn but were repelled and four jihadists were killed, said army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna.

Al-Shabaab has launched regular cross-border raids since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union force protecting the internationally-backed government — which the jihadists have been trying to overthrow for more than a decade.

The Lamu region, which includes popular tourist beach destination Lamu Island, lies close to the Somali frontier and has suffered frequent attacks, often carried out with roadside bombs.

Njuguna said “an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip” at 5:30am but it was repulsed.

“Four terrorists’ bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe,” he said, adding that a fire had broken out but had since been dealt with.

Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said officers were “on high alert” after the attack.

Al-Shabaab ‘lying’

An internal police report seen by AFP said two Cessna aircraft, two American helicopters and “multiple American vehicles” were destroyed at the airstrip.

Local government official Irungu Macharia said five people had been arrested near the camp and were being interrogated.

Neither Kenya nor the US have admitted casualties as yet, despite Shabaab claiming to have killed 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers.

US military officials confirmed the attack and said US and Kenyan forces had repelled the Al-Shabaab fighters.

“Working alongside our Kenyan partners, the airfield is cleared and still in the process of being fully secured,” said the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in a statement.

The nearby civilian airport at Manda Bay, which brings tourists visiting Lamu Island — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — was closed for several hours after the incident, according to the civil aviation authority.

Al-Shabaab said in a statement it had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base”.

AFRICOM accused Al-Shabaab of lying in order to create false headlines.

Shabaab countered with a second statement, saying it had been a ten hour firefight and mocking the US “inability to fend off an attack by just a handful of steadfast Muslim men”.

The group referred to an uptick in US military airstrikes under President Donald Trump, accusing the US of “strafing villages from above and indiscriminately bombarding innocent women and children.”

AFRICOM said in April it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.

US military network

The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as well as to target foreign interests.

The group has been fighting to overthrow an internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2006, staging regular attacks on government buildings, hotels, security checkpoints and military bases in the country

Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.

The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.

In a November report, a UN panel of experts on Somalia noted an “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July last year.

On Thursday, at least three people were killed when suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen ambushed a bus travelling in the area.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where it conducts “drone operations, training, military exercises, direct action and humanitarian activities”.

Al-Shabaab Militants Attack Military Base Used By US And Kenya Forces

 

Jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group on Sunday attacked a military base used by US and Kenyan forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, a government official said.

“There was an attack but they have been repulsed,” Lamu Commissioner Irungu Macharia told AFP.

He said the attack took place before dawn at the base known as Camp Simba, and that “a security operation is ongoing”, without saying if there had been casualties.

“We are not sure if there are still remnants within,” he said.

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Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying they had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base.”

The group said there had been both Kenyan and American casualties; however this could not be immediately verified.

Al-Shabaab said the attack was part of its “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) shall never be Judaized” campaign — a term it first used during an attack on the upscale Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi in January last year that left 21 people dead.

The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya, in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia in 2011 to fight the group, as well as to target foreign interests.

Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.

The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.

AFP

Al-Shabaab Militants Claim Bomb Attack In Mogadishu

The wreckage of a car that was destroyed during the car bomb that exploded in Mogadishu that killed more than 20 people is photographed in Mogadishu on December 28, 2019. A massive car bomb exploded in a busy area of the Somali capital Mogadishu on December 28, 2019, leaving more than 20 people dead.
Abdirazak Hussein FARAH / AFP

 

Al-Shabaab Islamist militants on Monday claimed responsibility for Saturday’s massive car bomb in the Somali capital Mogadishu that killed 81 people, including two Turkish citizens.

“…the mujahideen carried (out) an attack… targeting a convoy of Turkish mercenaries and apostate militia who were escorting them,” Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said in an audio message.

Details later…

Five Killed In Somalia After Jihadists Attack Hotel

Al-Shabaab — allied to Al-Qaeda — was forced out of the Somali capital in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and continues to launch attacks in Mogadishu.

 

Five people including three civilians were killed when jihadist militants stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital, police said Wednesday, adding that all five attackers had also died after an hours-long siege.

The attack on Tuesday evening, claimed by the Islamist group al-Shabaab, took place at a hotel in Mogadishu popular with politicians, army officers and diplomats.

“Our brave security forces ended the terror attack on SYL hotel rescuing more than 80 people” including government officials and hotel guests, police said in a statement.

“The number of the dead we have confirmed is five, among them two members of the security forces and three civilians. Nine other civilians and two soldiers were also wounded slightly”.

Several witnesses told AFP that the assailants were dressed in police uniform, which allowed them to approach the hotel without arousing suspicion.

They then opened fire and threw grenades, triggering an armed response from security forces guarding checkpoints leading to the nearby presidential palace.

After several hours of siege, police killed the two last attackers holed up inside the hotel, which has suffered three previous deadly attacks, all claimed by al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab posted a statement online saying it had carried out an operation “which happened as planned”, but gave no further details.

The police statement said the attack was carried out “by five people who have been sent by the terrorists to threaten the Somali public and all of them were killed”.

No car bomb

Al-Shabaab — allied to Al-Qaeda — was forced out of the Somali capital in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and continues to launch attacks in Mogadishu.

The group often strikes the most prominent hotels and restaurants, and has also staged attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

The SYL hotel is close to the main entrance of the Villa Somalia government complex, a high-security area that includes the presidential palace, the prime minister’s office and ministry buildings.

Unusually for an al-Shabaab attack, the jihadists did not use a car bomb to try and blast through the hotel’s exterior wall, said police officer Suleyman Adan.

“It appears that the attackers have changed their tactics. It was easy for them to disguise themselves and enter the building,” he added,

Adan said that a large number of hotel guests had been quickly evacuated by police through the hotel’s service doors and emergency exits.

Witnesses described scenes of panic and confusion as the attack began.

“I was close to the hotel when the gunfire broke out and we managed to turn our vehicle swiftly,” said Abdukadir Ahmed.

“The security forces around the palace checkpoints were firing heavy machine-guns but we don’t exactly know who was fighting who.”

Another witness, Ali Moalim Nur, told AFP that one of his friends who escaped the hotel had suffered a fracture after jumping off a wall.

In January 2015, five people were killed when a suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the same hotel on the eve of a visit by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In February 2016, twin blasts set off close to the SYL hotel and the neighbouring Peace Garden killed 14 people.

Then in August of the same year, a suicide car bomb attack on the hotel killed 15 people.

 

AFP

Al-Shabaab Attacks US Base, EU Convoy In Somalia

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The Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on a US base in Somalia on Monday, as the European Union confirmed a separate strike against a convoy of Italian advisers.

The militants struck the US base at Baledogle, about 110 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu, with explosives before gunmen opened fire on the compound.

In a statement, Al-Shabaab said: “In the early hours of Monday morning, an elite unit of soldiers… launched a daring raid on the US military base”.

“After breaching the perimeters of the heavily fortified base, the Mujahideen (holy fighters) stormed the military complex, engaging the crusaders in an intense firefight.”

The Shabaab claimed they had killed dozens in the attack, however the US Mission to Somalia and a Somali military official said there were no casualties.

“We already had the information about the attackers and simply repelled them before they reached our defence barriers. There was no casualty inflicted on our soldiers or on the US soldiers in the base,” the military official said on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses in the Baledogle area said that a heavy exchange of gunfire after the initial explosion had ended.

“We cannot hear any fighting for some hours now but… the whole area around the base is being patrolled by American military helicopters,” said Abdullahi Osman, a witness.

The US Mission to Somalia denied Al-Shabaab fighters penetrated the camp’s defences, saying that Somali security forces repelled the attack.

“The security forces stopped this ultimately failed attack due to their alertness and swift response, not allowing the attackers to breach the outer defensive perimeters of the base,” the mission said in a statement.

“We are thankful that there were no SNA (Somali National Army) casualties between the multiple attacks.”

Baledogle is a major launching site for US drone operations against Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-linked group which controls large parts of Somalia, and the Islamic State in Somalia outfit.

“Two heavy explosions occurred, the first one bigger than the other. There was also a heavy exchange of gunfire after the blasts but we don’t know about the details,” Mohamed Adan, a Somali elder close to the scene of the attack, told AFP by phone.

Car bomb hits convoy 

In a separate incident on Monday, a security official said EU advisers training the Somali National Army were attacked by a car bomb in Mogadishu.

“There was a car bomb targeting the EU military advisors along the industrial road. A vehicle loaded with explosives was rammed into one of the convoy vehicles,” said Omar Abikar, a Somali security officer.

A statement from the EU Training Mission in Somalia confirmed the convoy had been “hit by an explosion” while returning from the army headquarters.

“No EUTM-S soldiers were injured in the explosion. Two vehicles sustained damage,” read the statement.

The mission offers military advice and provides training to Somalia’s army, still propped up by some 20,000 African peacekeepers as the country recovers from decades of civil war and an Islamist insurgency.

Italy’s defence ministry confirmed that two armoured vehicles in an Italian convoy “were involved in an explosion,” adding that so far “there have been no consequences for Italian soldiers”.

SITE Intelligence, which monitors jihadist activities worldwide, said Al-Shabaab had claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The US Africa Command, AFRICOM, said in a brief statement emailed to AFP that it was “monitoring the situation. We are working to confirm details on the incident.”

Baledogle is a Soviet-built base which, despite secrecy surrounding US operations in Somalia, has emerged as one of the bases from where they carry out their strikes.

US strikes in Somalia surged in April 2017, after President Donald Trump declared the south of the country an “area of active hostilities”. The rate of air strikes has risen sharply this year.

In an April statement AFRICOM said it had killed more than 800 people in 110 air strikes in Somalia since April 2017.

Monday’s attacks are the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Al-Shabaab.

The jihadists were driven out of Mogadishu by government forces backed by 20,000 African Union peacekeepers in 2011. But they still carry out attacks including suicide bombings against government and international targets.

AFP

26 Killed In Deadly Somalia Hotel Siege

A man passes in front of the rubbles of the popular Medina hotel of Kismayo on July 13, 2019, a day after the attack. AFP Photos.

 

Twenty-six people were killed and 56 injured in a 12-hour attack by Al-Shabaab jihadists on a popular hotel that ended early Saturday in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo.

A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina hotel on Friday before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went, authorities said.

It was the largest coordinated attack by the Shabaab in Kismayo since 2012 when it lost control of the city.

The victims included several foreigners and a prominent Somali-Canadian journalist, Nodan Halayeh, who perished along with her husband.

Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans, one Briton and one Canadian were among the dead, president Ahmed Mohamed Islam of the semi-autonomous Jubaland region told a news conference.

“There are also two wounded Chinese citizens,” he added.

The hotel was packed with politicians and prominent businessmen as meetings were underway for upcoming presidential elections in Jubaland, due in August.

One of the candidates in the election died in the siege, local authorities said.

‘Martyrdom attack’

“The whole building is in ruins, there are dead bodies and wounded who have been recovered from inside. The security forces have cordoned off the whole area,” said witness Muna Abdirahman.

Another witness Hussein Muktar said, “The blast was very big.”

“The security forces are in control now and the last terrorist was shot and killed”, security official Mohamed Abdiweli said.

“There are dead bodies and wounded people strewn inside the hotel,” Abdiweli added.

He said authorities believed four gunmen, who one witness described as wearing Somali police uniforms, were involved in the attack.

Halayeh’s death sparked an outpouring of grief on social media.

She was an ardent campaigner for Somali unity and peace and had started an online TV show named Integration.

In a recent podcast, Nalayeh said her television programme about the Somali diaspora gave the community a voice.

“Social media has changed the game for how people learn about culture. So, if we don’t become the creators of our own content, we are going to be at the mercy of other people telling the stories of Africa,” she had said.

A local journalist, Mohamed Omar Sahal, also died in the siege, the Somali journalists’ union SJS said, adding that these were the first journalist deaths in the country this year.

Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-linked group, claimed responsibility for the siege describing it as “a martyrdom attack”.

The US Mission to Somalia condemned the attack and said it would “continue to work with our Somali and other international partners in the fight against violent extremism.”

‘Criminal, murderous, destructive’

The African Union’s Special Representative in Somalia, Francisco Madeira, said the attack was “meant to derail progress in Somalia as the country rebuilds and consolidates the gains made on peace and security.

“The attackers are a group of people with a criminal, murderous and destructive agenda. They cannot claim to be fighting to bring good governance to the country,” he said.

The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Shabaab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.

The militant group emerged from Islamic Courts that once controlled central and southern Somalia and are variously estimated to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men.

In 2010, the Shabaab declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

In 2011, they fled positions they once held in the capital Mogadishu, and have since lost many strongholds.

But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.

AFP

Nine Civilians Killed In Somalia Revenge Attack Police

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Nine civilians were executed by a local militia in war-torn Somalia after the killing of a policeman by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, police said Saturday.

The revenge attack on Friday just outside Galkayo — one of the most developed cities in the centre of the country — targeted the Rahanweyn clan, several of whose members are suspected of being Shabaab fighters.

“This was a horrible incident, a gruesome killing against nine unarmed innocent civilians in southern Galkayo. All of the civilians belong to one clan and the gunmen shot them dead in one location a few minutes after suspected Shabaab gunmen killed” a policeman, Mohamed Abdirahman, a local police official said.

“This is an unacceptable act and we will bring those perpetrators to justice,” said Hussein Dini, a traditional elder.

“Their killing cannot be justified. It seems that the merciless gunmen were retaliating for the security official who they believe was killed by Al-Shabaab gunmen belonging to the clan of the victims.”

Witnesses told local media that the victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo.

Local officials have in the past fingered the Rahanweyn clan for fomenting instability in the region and supplying fighters to the Shabaab.

The local militia which staged the revenge attack are from the Saad Habargidir, a sub-clan of the Hawiye group which is dominant in the southern part of the city.

Galkayo, situated about 600 kilometres (380 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, straddles the frontier with the self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug.

The city has been the scene of violent clashes between forces of the two regions in recent years and also witnessed violence between the two rival clans occupying its northern and southern districts.

Two Cuban Doctors Abducted In Kenya

National Police Service spokesman Charles Owino speaks during a press conference on April 12, 2019, on the abduction of two Cuban doctors near Kenya’s border with Somalia earlier. 
SIMON MAINA / AFP

 

Suspected Somali Al-Shabaab jihadis kidnapped two Cuban doctors in northeastern Kenya on Friday and killed their police escort officer, officials said.

The operation happened as the two doctors — a general practitioner and a surgeon — were on the way to work in the town of Mandera, close to the border with Somalia.

“Today at around 9:00 am, suspected Al-Shabaab militants abducted the two Cuban doctors stationed at the Mandera County Referral Hospital,” the county’s governor, Ali Roba said in a statement.

Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said the assailants used two Toyota Probox cars to block the vehicle that the doctors were travelling in.

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One of the two police officers escorting them “was shot by the attackers and died on the spot. The attackers succeeded to abduct the two doctors and crossed the border with them,” said Owino.

The driver of the doctors’ vehicle was arrested “and is currently being interrogated,” he said.

“Our security officers are pursuing the attackers.”

A senior police officer, who asked not to be named, told AFP:  “From the modus operandi and the fact that they went towards the Somalia border, we have reasons to believe that the kidnappers are Al-Shabaab.”

The two doctors, whose names have not been released, are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services.

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade.

Last November, an armed gang seized Silvia Romano, 23, an Italian charity worker, in the southeastern town of Chakama. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Police at the time warned against any speculation that the Shabaab may have been involved in her abduction.

The Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, have been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s fragile government, which is supported by a 20,000-strong African Union force, Amisom.

The Shabaab fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.

But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities, striking at the heart of Somalia’s government.

The group has carried out a number of attacks in Kenya in reprisal for the country’s participation in Amisom.

Kidnappings in Kenya are relatively rare but can have a devastating impact on tourism, a major income-earner.

AFP

Somali Siege Ends With At Least 19 Dead

A victim is removed from the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu on March 1, 2019, following a 24-hour seige by jihadists. Photo: Abdirazak Hussein FARAH / AFP

 

Security forces on Friday ended a siege by Al-Shabaab insurgents nearly 24 hours after jihadists mounted an attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu that left at least 19 dead.

“The last terrorist gunman was killed after the security forces destroyed a room in which he was taking cover and the siege is over now,” Ismail Muktar, the commissioner for Hamar Jajab district, told reporters.

“The security forces are clearing the area.”

The attack began on Thursday evening at around 1800 GMT, when a Shabaab militant in a car blew himself up, causing a huge blast that ripped the front off a major hotel and left several cars in flames on the busy street.

Other fighters then stormed inside a building housing a restaurant, where they were quickly surrounded by police.

Sporadic shooting continued throughout Thursday night and into Friday.

Medics pulled five bodies from the wreckage immediately after the explosion, but the recovery of more bodies was blocked for hours by the ensuing fighting.

“Those killed include children. The Shebab assailants, whom we saw, were only two,” said former Somali MP Abdi Barre Jibril.

By Friday afternoon, officials said the death toll had climbed significantly.

“We have recovered 14 more dead bodies from under the rubble of collapsed buildings, bringing the total number of dead to 19,” said Aamin Ambulance director Abdikadir Abdirahman.

At least 112 people were admitted to the city’s three main hospitals, hospital sources said.

Heavy explosions could be heard coming from the building on Friday afternoon as elite soldiers appeared to move in to storm Shabaab positions.

– Huge blast –
The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group.

The organisation announced that fighters waged a “martyrdom-seeking” and commando operation against what it described as a “luxury hotel inhabited by government officials and security service officers”.

The explosion which began the assault was so powerful that it tossed several vehicles into the air that then burst into flames.

Witnesses said the bombing took place in the early evening, when the street was filled with people relaxing after a day’s work.

“The whole area was in flames,” said Abdisamed Mohamed, a witness. “There was gunfire too.”

The head of Somalia’s journalist union, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, who survived the attack, described the devastation.

“I was the first one who came out of the hotel when the explosion took place and I saw many vehicles burning at the scene,” he said.

Bloody history

The Shabaab emerged from Islamic Courts that once controlled central and southern Somalia and are variously estimated to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men.

In 2010 the Shabaab declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

The following year, the group were chased out of Mogadishu by the 22,000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM.

They have since lost many of their strongholds but retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war, frequently hitting Mogadishu.

In October 2017 a truck bombing in a busy neighbourhood of the capital killed over 500 people, the deadliest attack in Somalia to date.

The Shabaab have also carried out a string of attacks in Kenya since 2011.

The deadliest of these took place on April 2, 2015, when 148 people were killed at Garissa University in northeastern Kenya.

In 2013, a Shabaab raid on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall left 67 dead, a siege that unfolded over four days. And in January this year, 14 people were killed in a Shabaab-claimed attack on a luxury hotel complex in Nairobi.

AFP