An attack by the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab at a Somali beach resort on Sunday has killed 15 people and left more than 20 people wounded, raising fresh questions about the resurgent threat of the East African terrorist group.
The Islamic militants, carrying AK-47 rifles and explosives, detonated a car bomb outside Lido beach in Mogadishu Sunday afternoon before storming the Elite Hotel and taking hostages.
After a siege lasting around five hours, Somalia Special Forces reclaimed the hotel and killed the five gunmen, rescuing around 200 guests via ropes strung from hotel windows.
🇸🇴 — DEVELOPING: Large suicide explosion hits the popular Elite Hotel at Lido Beach in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Al-Shabaab gunmen are inside the hotel, heavy gun battle is reportedly ongoing. Initial reports of 5 dead and over 30 injured.
— Belaaz (@TheBelaaz) August 16, 2020
Among those rescued was the hotel owner and the country’s former finance minister, Abdullahi Mohamed Nor. The hotel is often frequented by government officials, civil servants, and members of the Somali Jewish community.
“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,” Nor posted on Facebook after the attack.
Hours later, Al-Shabaab militants launched a separate assault on an army base in south-west Somalia, killing five soldiers:
— News Ghana (@news_ghana) August 17, 2020
Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the attacks were an attempt to delay the troubled country’s recovery.
“The main objective of this terror attack is to frustrate the Somali people who are recovering from difficult circumstances,” he said on Sunday. “Their plan is to hurt every Somali.”
The incident raises further questions about the strength of the Al-Shabaab group, which has sought to violently overthrow Somalia’s elected government over the past decade and continues to control large swathes of the countryside.
Their most common method of action is through insurgent terror attacks, which the military has found difficult to prevent, despite receiving additional support from the U.S. and the African Union, comprising of troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, and Burundi.
“This attack was clearly intended to cause maximum casualty on innocent civilians—men, women, and children,” said Francisco Madeira, the head of African Union troops in Somalia, in the wake of the attack.
The number of Al-Shabaab attacks has spiked in recent months, posing fresh challenges for the troubled country. As well as the terror threat, Somalia has also seen flash floods affecting over one million people, swarms of locusts have eaten up large portions chunks of its harvest, and the major challenge faced by the Chinese coronavirus outbreak.