Hotel Attack Shows Al Shabaab Maintains Terror Capability Despite Setbacks

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Al-Shabaab blasted their way into the compound of Maku-Mukarramah Hotel in Mogadishu last Friday afternoon. Four gunmen stormed the very popular hotel filled with government officials shortly after a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives at the gate. An unknown number of government officials were taken hostage within the hotel. It is speculated that Al-Shabaab was conducting an operation targeting what they consider to be the “apostate” internationally backed government in Mogadishu. The following was released by the Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Musab on Friday afternoon:

“We are behind the Hotel Maka Al Mukaram attack, and fighting is still going on inside.”

It is reported that the death toll had risen to at least 21 people, including the death of Somalia’s ambassador to Switzerland. Police had the building surrounded and were not able to advance any further due to heavy gunfire coming from the roof of the hotel. Somali Special Forces arrived, stormed the hotel and caused the surrender of all four Al-Shabaab extremists that had control over the hostages. Somali Government spokesperson Ridwan Abdiwali confirmed the apprehension of all 4 Al-Shabaab members.

This attack was in retaliation for the capture of an Al-Shabaab commander, three other jihadists, and the successful raid of an Al-Shabaab hideout in Northern Mogadishu by security forces on Thursday, a senior Somali intelligence officer said.

The Al Shabaab leader in question is believed to be responsible for several high profile bombings and assassination attempts.

This coordinated attack is the latest in Al-Shabaab’s effort to reclaim Mogadishu and the surrounding towns ever since being driven out by African Union forces with assistance from United States. Despite major military setbacks in 2014, Al-Shabaab remains a constant threat in Somalia, capable of carrying out high profile attacks despite lost territory.

Last month, Somali’s deputy prime minister was injured during the detonation of a Vehicle Borne Explosive Device outside the Central Hotel in Mogadishu. Shortly thereafter, a suicide bomber targeted a separate hotel killing four people.

In September 2013, Al-Shabaab stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, detonating bombs and shooting civilians that led to the death of 67 people. The Westgate mall had been built as an Israeli symbol of new prosperity in Africa. The jihadists who raided the mall were hand-picked by the late Al-Shabaab chief Ahmed Godane.

Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed a quarry in Kenya executing 36 non-Muslims in December 2014.

These attacks confirm the accuracy of a U.N. report issued in July that suggested Al-Shabaab “had shifted its strategic posture to asymmetrical warfare in both urban centers and the countryside.”

Despite having U.S. and allied forces having successfully targeted a number of Al Shabaab senior leadership in recent months, the jihadist group continues to maintain the ability to carry out substantial, coordinated attacks both in Somalia proper and cross-border in Kenya.

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