A lethal attack on a hotel by Islamist militants in Somalia Friday has left at least 17 dead and more than 30 wounded. Simultaneously, a video has been released depicting the slaughter of blindfolded Somali civilians on a beach.
Jihadist Al-Shabaab fighters blasted their way into the Hotel Maka Al Mukaram in the Somali capital of Mogadishu late Friday afternoon, detonating bombs and firing off rounds of bullets. The militants killed a Somali diplomat and at least 16 other people, authorities said.
A spokesman for the jihadists, Abdiasis Abu Musab, stated that they had targeted only government officials and that they chose the hotel because its guests are spies and government officials.
“We killed those who belonged to the government and released the civilians,” he said.
A police official present at the scene said that the killing had been less discriminant than the militants claimed.
“Those who died include civilians, hotel guards and government soldiers,” said Colonel Farah Aden.
Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, Somalia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, was among those killed in the attack, according to the Somali government.
Police Captain Ahmed Abdi said that one of the militants wore a belt with explosives and blew himself up inside the hotel.
After the militants seized the hotel Friday, Somali security personnel, led by a unit from the elite U.S.-trained special forces known as “Gaashaan” (Shield), besieged the building and battled the occupying fighters into the night, finally subduing them in the early hours of Saturday.
Fears had been mounting in the African nation that the Somali terror group al-Shabaab, which has been tied to al-Qaeda, would ally itself to the Islamic State, as Boko Haram did recently in Nigeria.
Last October, the United Arab Emirates warned that ISIS might be interested in an alliance with al-Shabaab, a prospect the UAE foreign minister described as frightening given his nation’s substantial Somali population.
Recent incidents suggest that the alliance may already be moving forward. In the aftermath of the Al-Shabaab terror attack at the Mogadishu hotel, a disturbing video of the terror group emerged, showing the execution of a dozen civilians in cold blood, in a style reminiscent of the Islamic State.
The video shows Al-Shabaab fighters walking Somali men to a beach, blindfolding them and forcing them to walk into the sea, and then shooting them with machine guns as they try to swim away.
The two-minute video is titled “In Remembrance 2,” and is the second in a series released by Al-Shabaab’s media unit al-Kataib Foundation. With its professional editing and barbaric images, the production resembles ISIS videos.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome