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20 dead as Al-Shabab gunmen attack hotel with twin blasts 

Storyline:National News

Al-Shabab gunmen forced their way into the Somali Youth League Hotel, popularly known as SYL Hotel, in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Friday night, exchanging fire with hotel guards and leaving 12 dead before government security forces ended the attack, a police official said.

A suicide bomber rammed his car into the first security checkpoint near the hotel and blew it up, allowing gunmen to fight their way past hotel guards at the next security barrier, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein.



A car destroyed by the explosion


A second car bomb, which exploded within 45 minutes of the attack on the hotel targeted, went off near  a public garden which few metres away from SYL hotel.

At least 12 dead bodies of civilians could also be seen outside the hotel after the attack there, which was claimed by Al-Shabab.

“We have received 21 people wounded in the blasts – and they are now being treated at the hospital,” said a doctor at Darul-Shifa Hospital in Mogadishu.

Director of Madina Hospital Dunia Ali Mohamed speaking to media said eight people who were admitted to the hospital last night after the attack, succumbed to their injuries.

“Previously we admitted 35 injuries but eight of them succumbed to their injuries and others were discharged” said Mohamed.

“My sister, class mates and I were taking pictures at the peace garden when the car bomb hit the gate of the park. We all rushed through the back gates,” witness Halima Nur told Reuters by phone after the attack in Mogadishu.

She said scores of people were in the park when the blast took place, saying there was “nearly a stampede” as people rushed out.

Somali security minister, Abdirisack Omar Mohamed speaking after security meeting said last night’s explosion was more heavier than the one explosion at Jazeera Hotel which occurred last year.

“Four gunmen and the suicide bomber were killed” he said, adding that the attackers did not get past the last security checkpoint.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast and also said its fighters had stormed the hotel.

“We started with a car bomb and then stormed the hotel. We are inside it and fighting continues,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.

The SYL hotel, which is located across from presidential palace in Mogadishu, is frequented by government officials and business executives.

Despite being pushed out of Somalia’s major cities and towns, the group often launches attacks in Mogadishu on weekends when people gather at hotels, restaurants or other places to meet up with friends or family.


Rescuers finding survivors at the scene


Rubble of SYL Hotel

Several recent attacks have seen explosive-laden cars driven at speed into the walls of hotels, with gunmen then entering to mow down staff and clients.

A similar attack was launched against the Central Hotel in February 2015, killing more than 20 people.

In November 2015, Al-Shabab attacked the Sahafi hotel. The attack, which began with two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED’s, or car bombs) before an assault team entered the breached perimeter,  left at least 15 dead.

In July 2015, Al-Shabab killed more than 10 people after storming the Jazeera Hotel. This was not the first time the Jazeera was targeted by the jihadist group. Al-Shabab also hit the hotel in January 2014 and September 2012; the president and Kenya’s foreign minister were present during the 2012 attack, but they were unhurt.

In March 2015, the jihadist group stormed another hotel and briefly seized control of it before the attackers were killed by security forces. One month earlier, a suicide assault team hit the Central Hotel, a gathering place for Somali parliamentarians and other members of government, killing several senior Somali politicians.

The Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, which is protected by 22,000 African Union troops.