Suicide bomber attacks Somali hotel, killing 32
By Olad Mohamed Hassan, AP Writer | August 24, 2010



A wounded civilian
A nurse treats a wounded civilian,at Medina hospital, Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. after he was wounded by mortar shrapnel during fighting between Somali insurgents and African Union troops. (AP Photo/ Mohamed Sheikh Nor)
MOGADISHU, Somalia – A suicide bomber and gunmen wearing military uniforms attacked a hotel near Somalia's presidential palace Monday, sparking a running gun battle with security forces. At least 32 people were killed, including six Somali parliamentarians.

A parliamentarian who was at the Muna Hotel said there were "dead bodies all over" and he labeled the scene a massacre.

The multi-pronged assault came less than 24 hours after the country's most dangerous militant group — al-Shabab — threatened a "massive" war against what it labeled as invaders, a reference to the 6,000 African Union troops in Mogadishu.

The attack on the Muna Hotel raised the two-day toll to at least 70 people, a high number even by Mogadishu's violent standards. Fighting that rocked Mogadishu on Monday killed 40 people, health officials said.

Somalia's deputy prime minister told The Associated Press that 19 civilians, six members of parliament, five security forces and two hotel workers were killed in the attack — a total of 32. Two attackers also were killed, said Abdirahman Haji Aden Ibi, the deputy prime minister. A government statement said 31 people were killed.

An 11-year-old shoe shine boy and a woman selling tea in front of the hotel were among the dead, African Union spokesman Maj. Barigye Bahoku said.

A parliamentarian who was at the hotel when the attack occurred said he had seen at least 20 bodies lying in the corridor of the hotel, including one dead member of parliament. The parliamentarian spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear for his safety.

He said the suicide bomber blew himself up near the reception and then gunmen stormed the hotel, setting off a gun battle that lasted about an hour.

Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the al-Shabab militia, said that members of the group's "special forces" had carried out the attack against those "aiding the infidels."

Militant veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are believed to be helping train members of al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida. Tuesday's assault is only the latest in a series of increasingly lethal attacks. Last month the group claimed responsibility for twin bombings during the World Cup final in Uganda's capital, blasts that killed 76 people.

Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for Uganda's role in the African Union force in Mogadishu.

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Associated Press writer Malkhadir M. Muhumed contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.

Gunmen storm Somali hotel, dozens killed

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Gunmen in army uniforms stormed a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu frequented by government officials on, killing at least 31 people including legislators, the government said.

Hardline al Shabaab Islamists linked to al Qaeda have been waging an insurgency for three years against the fragile Western-backed government, and control most of Mogadishu. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Information Ministry said at least 31 people had died, including six members of parliament and five members of government security forces.

The assault underscored the failure of the government and more than 6,300 mostly Ugandan African Union peacekeepers to bring order to Somalia after nearly two decades of anarchy, making it a continual source of instability for east Africa.

Last month al Shabaab expanded its reach as far as Uganda, claiming a double suicide bombing of packed bars in the capital Kampala. The attacks killed more than 70 people and jolted the African Union into increasing the peacekeeping contingent.

The Huna Hotel stands in one of the small nominally government-controlled areas of the capital, between the presidential palace and the Indian Ocean.

BLOOD LEAKING OUT

Legislator Mohamed Hasan earlier told Reuters by telephone in the chaos after the event that 15 members of parliament had been killed.

"The blood of the dead is leaking out of the hotel," said Information Minister Abdirahman Osman.

He said one gunman had been captured. His ministry said two others had blown themselves up, and that sporadic gunfire and shelling were continuing in the area.

"Some of the MPs had guns in their rooms and defended themselves before security forces arrived," said an anonymous government security source.

On Monday, the African Union announced the arrival of hundreds of new peacekeeping troops, mostly Ugandans, for the AMISOM mission to help the government in its battle against al Shabaab.

The peacekeepers have so far been able to do little more than guard the airport and port and shield President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

The security source said more than 300 armed al Shabaab fighters were thought to live in the Elgaab neighbourhood where the hotel is located.

"They disguise themselves as civilians running different smaller businesses and working in different restaurants and shops," he said.

The insurgents also control large areas of central and south Somalia, and have attracted a large number of foreign fighters to their cause.

More than 21,000 Somalis have been killed since the start of the insurgency, 1.5 million have been uprooted from their homes and nearly half a million are sheltering in other countries in the region.

Several MPs among killed in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU (AFP) - Several politicians were killed in a fresh bout of fighting in Mogadishu Tuesday after Al Qaeda-inspired extremists launched an offensive which the government said was a declaration of war on the Somali people, leaving 29 civilians dead.

Suspected Islamist Shebab fighters stormed a Mogadidishu hotel as the battles resumed and sprayed gunfire on occupants, among them lawmakers, an official and witnesses said.

"So far what I can tell you is that they have killed several MPs," a government security offcier told AFP on condition of anonymity. "I think four of them are dead."

The official could not immediately confirm their identities.

"We are not completely sure who the attackers are but we believe they are Shebab insurgents who entered the area disguised in government security uniforms," he added.

The government also said it had killed more than 15 Shebab insurgents in the worst clashes since the July 11 suicide attacks in Kampala claimed by the group escalated the conflict.

Fighting broke out on Monday afternoon when Shebab fighters launched an offensive on army barracks in several districts of the capital.

The head of Mogadishu's ambulance services Ali Muse told AFP 29 civilians had been killed so far in the clashes, which also wounded nearly 100 others.

Somali government security officer Colonel Mohamed Omar said: "Heavy fighting resumed this morning around several frontlines including Holwadag, Hodan and Bondhere area."

"Government forces are inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, we killed more than 15 of their fighters," he claimed, without specifying whether the fighting had caused any casualties among his own ranks.

Civilians in the seaside Somali capital routinely get caught in the crossfire when government forces backed by Burundian and Ugandan African Union forces trade mortar and artillery rounds with the insurgents.

"The fighting re-erupted this morning and there is a heavy exchange of artillery fire, the casualties are reaching their highest levels," said Ali Muse, who only has seven ambulances to cover the entire city.

In the Bakara market area, a Shebab stronghold, shops were closed Tuesday and witnesses said armoured vehicles from the African mission (AMISOM) had moved in to support the government's military effort.

"We are trapped inside our houses and we cannot go outside because of the fighting," said Abdullahi HUssein, a resident of Mogadishu's northern flashpoint of Bondhere.

"I can hear the tanks of the African peacekeepers engaging their opponents and firing artillery rounds," he added.

"Bakara market is not open this morning and people are trying to dodge the crossfire. Mortar shells are raining down on the market area and the roads leading to the market are closed," Ali Muktar, a Bakara grocer, told AFP.

The suicide attacks in Kampala last month killed 76 people and were claimed by the Shebab as retaliation for Uganda's leading role in AMISOM, the only obstacle to the insurgent group's final conquest of Mogadishu.

Uganda, hosting an African Union summit days later, responded by vowing to deploy more troops and mustering continental support for boosting AMISOM's deployment, which currently stands at more than 6,000 troops.

Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage announced the offensive during a press conference moments before the fighting started on Monday.

"Our holy warriors have started the offensive right now and the fighting will continue until Allah's wish is fulfilled. The enemy will face larger attacks from now on," he told journalists in Mogadishu.

"This operation is meant to eliminate the invading Christians and their apostate government in Somalia. The fighting will continue and, God willing, the mujahideen will prevail," he added.

The government responded in a statement charging that the Islamist group had proved its contempt for the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began last week.

"The Shebab spokesperson publicly declared war against the Somali people and government on Monday. This shows their lack of regard for the holy month of Ramadan," the information ministry statement


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