Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the latest series of car bombings in Mogadishu, which killed at least 29 civilians and wounded 40 on October 28th.
The two car bombings targeted Naso-Hablod Hotel, and after the explosions, five jihadists stormed the building, leading to a 12-hour siege with Somali security forces.
The Somali forces regained control of the hotel on Sunday morning, arresting 3 fighters while 2 others were killed after detonating explosive vests after they were shot.
The day after the attack, the Somali government fired the country’s chief of intelligence and police commissioner in an attempt to restore public confidence.
The latest attack took place ahead of a planned meeting to try to defuse tensions between the federal government and regional states. Somalia has a federal system which grants substantial autonomy to constituent states. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was supposed to attend a meeting at the hotel with the leaders of the country’s five federal states before the bombings occurred.
This attack comes two weeks after a double truck bombing in Mogadishu on October 14th, which was the deadliest attack in Somali history, killing at least 358 civilians. Although no group claimed responsibility, the government blamed al-Shabaab for the attack.
Al-Shabaab has carried out car bombings in the past and it is a possibility that the group didn’t claim responsibility for the attack on the 14th because it didn’t want to be seen unfavorably for killing such a high number of civilians when it claims to only target military and government officials.
Since the last attack in Mogadishu, the president has visited regional countries to seek more support for the fight against al-Shabaab, vowing a state of war. There has been a big challenge to pull together regional states inside Somalia, where the federal government is trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities.
Al-Shabaab has taken advantage of remote areas outside of Mogadishu because the government is unable to assert its authority and towns when military troops withdraw.
During the past year, the resurgence of al-Shabaab in Somalia has been one of U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) primary focuses. The U.S. military has carried out 15 airstrikes this year against al-Shabaab fighters and camps. Increased U.S. military involvement may lead to a significant gap between the military and diplomatic engagement. More military operations could mean more troops on the ground, which risks the handful of American diplomats taking second place in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency against Somalia’s U.N.-backed government since 2007, attempting to impose Sharia law in Somalia. President Trump had approved more troops and airstrikes in Somalia back in March. There has been no plans from the U.S. though since the bombing two weeks ago to increase its help in Somalia, so it isn’t surprising al-Shabaab was able to carry out another attack in Mogadishu.