Car bombs rock So­mali cap­i­tal, leav­ing at least 20 dead

Mil­i­tant group al-Shabab as­serts re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tacks in Mo­gadishu

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD - BY RAEL OMBUOR

nairobi — A se­ries of car bombs killed at least 20 peo­ple Fri­day in So­ma­lia’s cap­i­tal, Mo­gadishu, in at­tacks claimed by the al-Shabab ex­trem­ist group.

At least three bombs ex­ploded out­side a ho­tel near the head­quar­ters of So­ma­lia’s Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions Depart­ment, and a gun bat­tle en­sued when four mil­i­tants tried un­suc­cess­fully to storm the ho­tel, of­fi­cials said. The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported that a fourth bomb went off as medics at­tempted to res­cue in­jured peo­ple.

So­mali of­fi­cials said po­lice of­fi­cers and ho­tel se­cu­rity guards shot and killed four mil­i­tants as they at­tempted to burst through a hole that one of the blasts opened in a wall of the Sa­hafi Ho­tel, which is fre­quented by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and ap­peared to be the main tar­get of the at­tacks. At least two other mil­i­tants were re­ported killed when they det­o­nated their sui­cide car bombs.

Ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses, the first car bomb hit the Sa­hafi Ho­tel, ad­ja­cent to the Hayat Ho­tel on a busy street in Mo­gadishu. The sec­ond car det­o­nated on a street that lies be­tween the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions Depart­ment and the Sa­hafi Ho­tel, while a third bomb ex­ploded on an­other street be­hind the ho­tel.

The bombs went off just min­utes af­ter 4 p.m. when the streets were packed with pedes­tri­ans and traf­fic. Cars, minibuses and mo­tor­cy­cles were in­cin­er­ated by the blasts. At least 17 peo­ple were re­ported in­jured in the ex­plo­sions.

A spokesman for al-Shabab, an Is­lamist group linked to the alQaeda ter­ror­ist net­work, said the ho­tel was tar­geted be­cause “it acts as a gov­ern­ment base,” the Reuters news agency re­ported. “Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and se­cu­rity forces are al­ways in the ho­tel,” said the spokesman, Ab­di­a­sisi Abu Musab.

Among those killed was Ab­d­i­fa­tah Ab­di­rashid, the man­ager of the Sa­hafi Ho­tel, news agen­cies re­ported. He took over the ho­tel af­ter his fa­ther was killed in an al-Shabab at­tack on the build­ing in 2015.

Al-Shabab con­tin­ues to con­trol large parts of south­ern and cen­tral So­ma­lia. It has car­ried out deadly at­tacks in the past on high­pro­file tar­gets in Mo­gadishu and other ci­ties and towns, in­clud­ing places in neigh­bor­ing Kenya.

Last month, So­ma­lia marked the an­niver­sary of one of alShabab’s dead­li­est at­tacks, a 2017 truck bomb­ing in Mo­gadishu that killed more than 500 peo­ple.

Sup­port­ing So­ma­lia’s fed­eral gov­ern­ment in its fight against al-Shabab is a re­gional peace­keep­ing force known as the African Union Mis­sion in So­ma­lia (AMISOM).

The U.N.-backed mis­sion has been help­ing the So­mali gov­ern­ment strengthen its na­tional army.

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