Somali authorities claim that at least 16 people have been killed and another 55 wounded in a car bomb and gun attack on the popular Hotel Ambassador in the center of Mogadishu the capital of Somalia. The attack was by the rebel group Al-Shabaab affiliated with Al Qaeda. Although the group has lost considerable territory it still controls much of the countryside and regularly launches attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
An earlier report by Alaribya claimed that ten people had been killed and around forty others wounded. The report said that Somali security forces continued to battle Al-Shabaab fighters inside the hotel five hours after the initial attack. The attack started with a car bomb that severely damaged the hotel and then Al-Shabaab fighters stormed the hotel. Mohamed Elmi, a witness said the blast destroyed the whole area. He said he saw the bodies of seven people, most severely burned.
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack. Among the dead were two members of the Somali parliament. Government forces have blocked off the area. Major Nur Mohamed said that although gunfire had died down at the hotel, government forces occupied only the first to fourth floor and he suspected the roof was not safe. The hotel is five stories. A witness said that he heard a man on the fifth floor crying: "Please rescue me". The attack happened shorty before the arrival of Turkish president Recep Erdogan in Mogadishu.
Al Jazeera reporter Mohammed Adow said: "They want to send a message that although they might have lost control of the city, they can still carry out such attacks with audacity." In February, at least nine were killed when Al-Shabaab set off a car bomb at a park near a hotel. In January an attack on a restaurant killed at least seventeen. The group also has launched attacks both in Kenya and Uganda as both contribute troops to the African Union peace-keeping mission in Somalia.
A BBC reports also claims only at least 10 dead and 40 wounded. BBC reporter Ibrahim Aden in Mogadishu said that the explosion was one of the largest to hit the city and the scale of destruction is huge. The head of the city's Amiin ambulance service says the main Medina hospital is overcrowded. Dr. Abdulkadir Haji Aden said: "I was the first person to reach scene. The damage was enormous. My brother and his son were among those injured. We are now in Medina hospital and it is overcrowded with wounded people. I have never seen something like this."
Al-Shabaab was driven out of Mogadishu back in 2011. The UN-backed government backed by African Union forces has been attempting to wrest control of the countryside from Al-Shabaab but it obviously remains a potent force.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.