Nine Dead, 47 Wounded In Attack On South Somalia Hotel

al shabaab
Al Shabaab soldiers patrol in formation along the streets of Dayniile district in Southern Mogadishu, March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

 

Nine people were killed and 47 wounded Sunday in an attack on a hotel in Kismayo, southern Somalia, claimed by the Al-Shabaab Islamist group, the region’s security minister said.

The port city is the latest to be hit following a recent resurgence of attacks by the Al-Qaeda-linked group, which has mainly targeted the capital Mogadishu and central Somalia.

Sunday’s assault began at 12:45 pm (0945 GMT) when a booby-trapped car rammed the entrance of Hotel Tawakal. It ended around 7:00 pm after the attackers were killed by security forces.

Among the casualties were students leaving a nearby school, Jubaland security minister Yusuf Hussein Osman told reporters. All four attackers, including the suicide bomber, were killed, he added.

“The first one detonated himself and the (remaining) three were killed by the security forces”, he said, confirming an early police statement.

“This is not a government target,” police officer Abdullahi Ismail said. “It is just an ordinary, civilian-frequented hotel.”

Farhan Hassan was outside the hotel when the attack happened. “A suicide bomber drove a vehicle into the entrance of the hotel before the gunmen entered the building,” he said.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the six-hour attack, saying members of the federal government of Jubaland, where Kismayo is located, were meeting in the hotel at the time.

‘All-out war’

Al-Shabaab has been trying to overthrow the government for more than 15 years and regularly attacks civilian and military targets.

Kismayo was once an Al-Shabaab stronghold before it was taken over in 2012 by local militias backed by Kenyan forces.

In August, the group launched a 30-hour gun and bomb attack on the popular Hayat hotel in Mogadishu, killing 21 people and wounding 117.

In 2019, the group conducted a similar attack on a hotel in Kismayo, killing 26 and injuring 56.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May, vowed after the August siege to wage “all-out war” on the Islamists.

In September he urged citizens to stay away from areas controlled by jihadists, saying the armed forces and tribal militia were ratcheting up offensives against them.

A joint US-Somali drone strike killed one of the militants’ most senior commanders on October 1.

Just hours after his death was announced, a triple bombing in the southern city of Beledweyne killed at least 30 people.

In addition to violence, Somalia — like its neighbours in the Horn of Africa — is in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years. Four failed rainy seasons have wiped out livestock and crops.

Some 7.8 million Somalis — nearly half the population — are affected by the drought and 213,000 are on the brink of famine as a result, according to the United Nations

Death Toll In Somalia Hotel Siege Climbs To 21

An ambulance is seen near the site of explosions in Mogadishu, on August 20, 2022. Al-Shabaab fighters attacked the Hayat hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Friday, with casualties reported, security sources and witnesses said. (Photo by Hassan Ali ELMI / AFP)

 

The death toll from a devastating 30-hour siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has climbed to 21, Health Minister Ali Haji Adan said Sunday, as anxious citizens awaited news of missing relatives.

Emergency workers have been trying to clear the debris of a gun and bomb attack by the Al-Qaeda-linked group on the popular Hayat hotel which left parts of the building in ruins, with many feared trapped inside.

“The ministry of health has so far confirmed the deaths of 21 people and 117 people wounded” in the assault that began on Friday evening and lasted over a day, Adan said.

On Sunday morning, the area surrounding the hotel was under tight security, with the roads blocked as emergency workers and bomb disposal experts sought to clear any explosives and remove rubble.

The hotel sustained heavy damage during the gunfight between Somali forces and the insurgents.

Parts of the building collapsed, leaving many people frantically searching for their loved ones who were inside when the attack began.

Police commissioner Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar told reporters on Sunday that “106 people including children and women” were rescued during the siege which ended around midnight.

As bullets and flames ripped through the hotel, security forces searched the property to bring civilians to safety, including three young children who hid inside a toilet.

“The casualties mostly happened in the early hours of the attack, after that security forces spent time rescuing people individually and room by room,” Hijar said.

The attack was the biggest in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in June and underscored the challenge of trying to crush the 15-year insurrection by the Islamist group.

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 ‘Tense’ 

A media report in front of a destroyed building after a deadly 30-hour siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists at Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu on August 21, 2022.  (Photo by Hassan Ali ELMI / AFP)

Dozens of people gathered near the road leading up to the hotel on Sunday morning, desperate for news of their family members.

Businessman Muktar Adan told AFP he was waiting for permission to enter the premises and look for his sibling.

“My brother was inside the hotel the last time we heard from him, but his phone is switched off now and we don’t know what to expect,” he said.

Said Nurow, who heard the attack unfold, said he was very worried about his friend who was a guest at the property.

“I hope… (he) is alive, he stayed in the hotel according to the last information we got from his sister,” he told AFP, describing the mood as “tense”.

The hotel was a favoured meeting spot for government officials and scores of people were inside when gunmen stormed the property.

Somalia’s allies, including the United States, Britain, and Turkey, as well as the UN, have strongly condemned the attack. So did ATMIS, the African Union force tasked with helping Somali forces take over primary responsibility for security by the end of 2024.

Earlier this month, Washington announced its forces had killed 13 Al-Shabaab operatives in an air strike, the latest since President Joe Biden ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.

‘Audacious Attack’ 

Samira Gaid, executive director of the Hiraal Institute, a Mogadishu-based security think tank, told AFP that the “audacious attack” was a message to the new government and its foreign allies.

“The complex attack is to show that they are still very much present, very relevant and that they can penetrate government security and conduct such attacks,” she said.

Mohamud said last month that ending the jihadist insurrection required more than a military approach, but that his government would negotiate with the group only when the time was right.

According to Gaid, the president later told officials that the government’s “first objective is to fight the group militarily and weaken then before they can go into any negotiations.”

“This attack will trigger a faster strategy and response especially when it comes to engaging the group,” she said.

According to police, the attack began with a blast caused by a suicide bomber who forced his way into the hotel along with gunmen.

Minutes later, a second explosion struck as rescuers, security forces and civilians rushed to help the injured, witnesses said.

Al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the hotel siege, has carried out several attacks in Somalia since Mohamud took office, and last month launched strikes on the Ethiopian border.

The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, but still, control swathes of countryside and retain the ability to launch deadly strikes, often targeting hotels and restaurants.

The deadliest attack occurred in October 2017 when a truck packed with explosives blew up in Mogadishu, killing 512 people.

AFP

Death Toll Climbs To 22 In Cuba Hotel Blast


Firefighters and rescue workers remove debris from the ruins of the Saratoga Hotel, in Havana, on May 6, 2022. ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP

 

A powerful explosion due to a suspected gas leak ripped through a luxury hotel in central Havana, killing at least 22 people Friday, according to official tallies.

Rescuers pulled four bodies out of the rubble in the early evening as they combed through what remained of the prestigious Saratoga Hotel looking for survivors.

At least one woman with whom rescuers made contact was alive in the debris, officials said, adding they believed more survivors were still trapped and that a canine squad was searching them out.

Cuba’s president attributed the massive blast to a gas leak.

“It was neither a bomb nor an attack, it was an unfortunate accident,” said Miguel Diaz-Canel, who arrived at the scene an hour after the blast, accompanied by the prime minister and National Assembly president.

“Compatriots and friends around the world. #Havana is in shock today,” he tweeted.

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The latest death toll of 22, which includes at least one child, was announced on television news after a day in which ambulances and paramedics raced through the center of Cuba’s historic capital.

Both the health ministry and the Cuban presidency said dozens had been injured but cited different numbers, ranging from 50 to 65 people.

The first four floors of the establishment, which were closed to guests while being renovated, were gutted in the late-morning blast that sent a cloud of dust and smoke billowing into the air.

The explosion also tore off large parts of the facade, blew out windows, and destroyed cars parked outside the five-star hotel, which has in the past hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger, and Rihanna.

The dome of a nearby Baptist church also collapsed.

Inside the hotel at the time were employees preparing for its post-refurbishment reopening, scheduled for next Tuesday.

Miguel Hernan Estevez, director of the hospital Hermanos Almejeiras, said a two-year-old boy had undergone surgery for a fractured skull.

“So far we have no information that any foreigner was either injured or killed, but… this is preliminary information,” added Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia Granda.

 Not a Bomb 

Firefighters and rescue workers remove debris from the ruins of the Saratoga Hotel, in Havana, on May 6, 2022.  ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP

 

Roberto Calzadilla of state company Gaviota, which owns the hotel, said the explosion happened while a gas tank was being refilled.

Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene Friday and police cordoned off the area, dispersing people who swarmed to the hotel near Havana’s emblematic National Capitol Building that housed Congress prior to the Cuban revolution.

It is also next to a school, but no pupils were injured, according to the presidency.

Rogelio Garcia, a bicycle taxi driver who was passing the hotel at the time of the blast recounted that “we felt a huge explosion and (saw) a cloud of dust… many people ran out.”

“There was a terrible explosion and everything collapsed,” said a woman, her face covered in dust, who declined to give her name.

According to the website of the Saratoga Hotel, it is an upmarket establishment with 96 rooms, two bars, two restaurants, a spa, and gym.

It was built in 1880 to house shops and converted into a hotel in 1933.

“The United States sends heartfelt condolences to all of those affected by the tragic explosion this morning,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Twitter.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, meanwhile, said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would not cancel a trip to Cuba planned for Sunday.

“Our sympathy goes out to the victims and those affected, as well as to the people of our dear sister nation,” Ebrard tweeted.

Condolences also poured in from Bolivia, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Nicolas Maduro, the president of close Cuban ally Venezuela, who said: “the Cuban people have the solidarity and support of all the peoples of the world” and especially Venezuelans.

AFP

Abia Govt Seals Hotel Over ‘Mysterious’ Death, Disappearance Of Customers

Festac
File photo.

 

Authorities in Abia State have sealed off Merry Home Hotels over the mysterious death and disappearance of some of its clients who lodged at the facility.

While the body of a yet-to-be-identified lady was recovered from the facility, several others reportedly went missing with no news of their whereabouts.

Dr Eze Chikamnayo, the Commissioner of Information in Abia, confirmed this to Channels Television on Saturday in Umuahia, the state capital.

He explained that the government’s action became necessary in view of repeated reports of death and disappearance of clients under questionable circumstances within the premises of the hotel located within the 7UP axis of Ogbor Hill in Aba.

The commissioner stated that the most recent such case was the death of a lady who came in with two young men and a baby in the afternoon on April 15, as confirmed by the CCTV footage in the hotel.

He added that the men left with the baby hours later without the lady, only for the hotel management to break into the room at midnight to find the lady dead with her body dismembered.

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Chikamnayo revealed that the government was in receipt of reports suggesting similar incidents within the hotel, especially at the swimming pool area.

He stressed that no responsible government would fold its arms and watch criminal hotspots remain while the Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration would not allow such an environment to thrive.

The commissioner confirmed that everyone suspected to be involved in the April 15 incident has been arrested by the police while the hotel would remain sealed in the meantime.

According to him, Abia is a no-go area for ritualists and murderers and the government has zero tolerance for any form of criminality.

Chikamnayo warned that any hotel in the state that offers itself for such practice would automatically be sealed and the culprits would be brought to justice.

He also advised parents to monitor their children’s movement properly to ensure they do not fall victim to ritualists and other criminally minded individuals.

Police authorities in the state have also confirmed the death of the lady, saying efforts were ongoing to arrest and bring her killers to justice.

Mr Geoffrey Ogbonna, the Police Public Relations Officer in Abia, said the body of the yet-to-be-identified lady has since been deposited at a morgue.

The State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), according to him, is handling the case and residents are advised to support the police with useful information regarding the incident.

Nollywood Actors Picket Hotel In Ikeja

 

Top Nollywood actors including Jide Kosoko, Fred Amata, Yemi Solade, Emeka Osai and many others joined other filmmakers to Picket Radisson Blu Hotel in Ikeja.

The creatives led by the Copyright Management Organisation, Audio Visuals Right Society on Tuesday disrupted services at the hotel for what they have described as the management’s refusal to pay royalties for its use of audio-visual contents in its chain of hotels.

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According to movie producer and Chairman of the Copyright Management Organisation, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, picketting became a last resort after months of dialogue and negotiations broke down without any agreement being reached.

Management of the hotel declined to make comments on the incident.

Kaduna Revenue Service Seals Hotels, Hospital Over N22m Tax Liabilities

Officials of the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service seal three hotels and a hospital.

 

The Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service has sealed three hotels and a hospital over N22.2 million tax liabilities.

According to the service, the affected facilities which are located in the state capital were owing the Kaduna government between N12million, N2.8 million; N347,000 and N7million tax respectively.

Legal Adviser of the Kaduna Internal Revenue service, Aisha Mohammed, who is also the leader of the enforcement team, says the service had obtained court orders to seal the hotels and hospital for defaulting despite several notifications, adding that the businesses will remain sealed until they settle their outstanding debts.

 

A file photo of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
A file photo of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

 

She explained that the action is in line with the provisions of Section 104 (3) and (4) of the Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Act, 2011 and Section 37 (3) and (4) of Kaduna State Tax Codification and Consolidation Law, 2020, as amended.

According to her, the tax liabilities are based on assessment from 2012 to 2018, and the Service has served them notice several times but they refused to oblige.

The Legal Adviser, however, admonished other business operators in the state to settle their outstanding tax liabilities or be ready to face the same treatment.

Germany Upholds Ban On Booking.Com Best-Price Clauses

 

 

Hotel booking portal Booking.com cannot prevent hotels in Germany from advertising lower room prices on their own websites, a court ruled on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision by the German cartel authority that banning hotels from advertising lower prices on their own websites was “not compatible with cartel law”.

The Federal Cartel Authority had in 2015 prohibited Booking.com from continuing to apply so-called “narrow” best-price clauses in the country.

Under the clauses, hotels were obliged to always offer Booking.com their lowest room prices, maximum room capacity, and most favourable booking and cancellation conditions available on all online and offline booking channels.

Booking.com had successfully challenged the decision at a higher regional court in 2019, but the Bundeskartellamt then launched an appeal.

Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, welcomed Tuesday’s ruling and said best-price clauses could “hinder competition between platforms”.

“They can work to the disadvantage of the providers — such as hoteliers in this case — and mean higher prices for consumers,” he said.

Amazon had already abandoned similar clauses for merchants on its Marketplace platform in 2013 after intervention by the cartel authority.

The regulator has also banned Booking.com rival HRS from using best-price clauses.

In other European countries, best-price clauses have been prohibited by law.

Mundt said the Supreme Court decision had “paved the way for us to take a differentiated view of such clauses depending on the industry and market position of the platform”.

Okorocha Invited For Questioning Over Imo Hotel – Police

Ex-Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha

 

The Imo State Police Command on Sunday said ex-governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, has been invited for questioning by the Commissioner of Police, Nasiru Mohammed.

Speaking to Channels Television, the spokesman of the State Police Command, Orlando Ikeokwu, said the invitation followed Okorocha’s alleged involvement and forceful entry into a property that was confiscated by the state government few days ago.

According to him, the command received a distress call that there was commotion and violence at Royal spring palm hotel located at Akachi road in Owerri, allegedly linked to Okorocha’s wife, Nkechi.

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He said in order to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order in the state, the police swung into action to maintain peace and invited the ex-governor who was said to have forcefully gained access into the premises with his security details without any notice to the state government or security operatives.

To the police spokesman, Okorocha’s action led to a fracas between the security details of the ex-governor and operatives attached to the sealed property and several vehicles were damaged while some people sustained injuries.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police has ordered a full investigation to ascertain what actually transpired.

UK To Impose Hotel Quarantine For Returning Britons

The front page of the Evening Standard newspaper leads with the story that the government is contemplating making it compulsory that all visitors to the UK will have to quarantine in a hotel, after arriving here, outside Victoria train station in central London on January 25, 2021, as Londoners continue to live under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions.  (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP)

 

British citizens returning home from roughly 30 countries deemed at “high risk” from new coronavirus variants could soon have to quarantine in hotels, reports said on Wednesday.

Beefed-up rules will require the travellers to stay in hotels near airports for 10 days, according to the Times and BBC.

Non-UK arrivals from the targeted destinations — which include South America, Portugal, Cape Verde and South Africa — are already barred following the discovery of two virus variants in Brazil and South Africa.

The 10-day quarantine will cost returning Britons £1,500 ($2,060, 1,697 euros), with meals served at the bedroom door and security guards supervising stays.

Interior minister Priti Patel is due to make a statement in parliament later on Wednesday on the borders policy after a meeting of the government’s Covid-19 operations committee.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick told Sky News the government would be taking “further steps… to ensure that there is less flow of individuals” returning but gave no further details.

The Times reported ministers were divided between those backing the limited quarantine regime and those favouring a blanket policy requiring arrivals from all destinations to self-isolate in hotels.

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The main opposition Labour Party’s health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said stricter border measures were long overdue and urged the government to consider a more comprehensive policy.

“There will be areas or countries across the world where there are mutations which haven’t been identified yet because they don’t have the same level of scientific ability,” he told the BBC.

Britain has been the hardest hit in Europe from the pandemic, becoming only the fifth country in the world to surpass 100,000 deaths after recording another 1,631 fatalities on Tuesday.

With a more contagious virus variant sweeping the country since December, some health experts have warned it could register as many as 50,000 further deaths in the coming months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a third national lockdown in early January, shutting schools and non-essential shops, but critics have said the UK’s borders remain a soft spot.

The government earlier this month scrapped its “travel corridors” from countries with lower caseloads, and now asks all arrivals to show negative Covid-19 tests and then self-isolate.

Ministers have since been mulling whether to require all incoming travellers to isolate in hotels, emulating past actions taken by countries such as Australia and New Zealand which have emerged with dramatically lower death tolls.

Gunmen Kill Man In Ondo Hotel

 

A young man identified as Babatunde Adeluka Olubasa has been shot and killed by unknown gunmen in a popular hotel in the Ijapo Estate area of Akure, Ondo state capital.

Channels Television gathered that the deceased was trailed to a hotel where he was lodging by three armed men after attending a function in Akure.

According to a source, after shooting him, the murderers descended on Babatunde with a small axe until he gave up the ghost.

The Public Relations Officer of Ondo State Police Command, Tee-Leo Ikoro, confirmed the incident in a statement issued on Tuesday, adding that it was a case of assassination.

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Ikoro said that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Bolaji Salami has directed that full-scale investigation has commenced into the murder to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.

COVID-19: Kaduna Govt Seals Hotels, Restaurants For Violating Safety Protocols

 

The Kaduna State Government has sealed some social facilities and hotels across the state for operating against its COVID-19 safety protocols by reopening businesses.

The facilities which comprised of hotels, bars, lounges, restaurants, bakeries, and swimming pools, were shut down by the state Ministry of Business Innovation and Technology during an inspection on Friday.

In the course of the exercise, the enforcement team, led by the commissioner in charge of the ministry, Idris Nyam met customers eating in the restaurants, bakeries, and drinking inside the hotel bars.

Other violations by the hotels and restaurant operators include non-compliance to physical distancing, failure to install hand washers at the reception and other designated points, as well as failure to use face masks.

The Commissioner warned that the government will not hesitate to deal with erring or non-compliant facilities that violate the stipulated protocols.

US Warns Of Attack Threat Against Major Hotel In Kenya

Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean.
Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean.

 

The United States warned on Thursday that extremists may be plotting an attack against a major hotel in Nairobi, urging its citizens to be cautious.

“The exact hotel has not been identified, but it is believed to be a hotel popular with tourists and business travelers,” the State Department said in a travel alert.

The State Department urged US citizens to “exercise increased vigilance” if staying in hotels around Nairobi and to be aware of buildings’ emergency evacuation plans.

In Kenya, a US embassy alert warning of the threat went out to citizens, while police on Thursday released a “periodic security alert” saying security had been stepped up as there were “a few criminal elements who may wish to cause harm to the public.”

“We wish to caution the public to be extra vigilant even as the police and other security agencies continue to work around the clock to ensure the safety and security of our country and Kenyans at large,” read the statement, which gave no specific details.

Kenya has witnessed a series of bloody attacks carried out by Al-Shabaab, an extreme Islamist movement affiliated with Al-Qaeda that controls parts of neighboring Somalia.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and the attacks are a brutal retaliation for its military presence across the border.

 Shabaab threats 

In January Al-Shabaab warned that Kenya “will never be safe,” threatening tourists and calling for more attacks on US interests after they stormed a US base in an assault that killed three Americans and destroyed several aircraft.

The Al-Qaeda linked group said its attack on Camp Simba should serve as a “warning,” and that Kenya should withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance.”

The group’s most recent attack in Nairobi was in January 2019, when a suicide bomber and gunmen stormed the upmarket Dusit hotel complex, killing 21 people.

In 2013, a Shabaab raid on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate shopping mall left 67 dead in a siege that unfolded over four days.

Less than two years later, Shabaab gunmen stormed Garissa University in northeastern Kenya, killing 148 people as they singled out Christians.

The bloodiest attack in Kenya’s modern history was in 1998 when Al-Qaeda bombed the US embassy in Nairobi, killing 213 people.

Al-Shabaab has slammed a rise in air strikes under President Donald Trump, accusing the United States of “strafing villages from above and indiscriminately bombarding innocent women and children.”

AFRICOM said in April 2019 it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.

On Monday AFRICOM said a senior Shabaab leader who had been involved in planning the Camp Simba attack was killed in an airstrike.

Observers say the Islamist group has shown remarkable resilience after more than a decade of efforts to combat it, retaining the capacity to inflict major damage despite losing control of several urban centres.

AFP