- Police officer says 15 people died in raid in Mogadishu
- Assault follows purported killings of Islamist group leaders
At least 15 people, including two lawmakers, were killed by Islamist militants at a hotel in Somalia’s capital, police said, in an attack just hours after authorities said senior al-Shabaab leaders were targeted in raids.
A blast struck the Ambassador Hotel in Mogadishu before gunmen stormed inside and began shooting indiscriminately, said Dalnar Hassan, a witness who was injured. Security forces fought and eventually killed three militants inside the facility, Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir told reporters.
Police officer Mohamed Shiine said in an interview that at least 15 people were killed during a siege lasting 14 hours. Members of parliament Abdullah Hussein and Mohamed Guure were among the dead, Somalia’s prime minister said in an e-mailed statement.
Islamist militants al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement read on Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that supports them. The al-Qaeda-linked group has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 in a bid to impose a strict version of Islamic law. An African Union mission helped the nation’s forces push the militants from Mogadishu in 2011 and since then took over territory in the group’s strongholds in the south and central regions.
The attack came after Somali authorities said they’d killed Mohamed Dulyadeyn, an al-Shabaab leader who neighboring Kenya believes was the mastermind behind an April 2015 university attack in that country. During that raid in the eastern town of Garissa, near the Somali border, 147 people, mostly students, were killed. It was the worst attack by Islamist militants in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi that killed more than 200 people.
Dulyadeyn was killed in an overnight assault on an al-Shabaab stronghold in Bulo Gadud, a village 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the southern port of Kismayo late Tuesday, according to Abdirashid Hassan Abdi, a regional security minister.
Separately, U.S. forces targeted Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, one of al-Shabaab’s most senior military planners and a coordinator of attacks in the region including in Kenya and Uganda, in an airstrike on May 27, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Wednesday in a statement. The results of the airstrike are still being assessed, he said.
“The removal from the terrorist network of this experienced al-Shabaab commander with extensive operational experience will disrupt near-term attack planning, potentially saving many innocent lives,” Cook said.
Da’ud was killed in Kunya Barrow in Lower Shabelle region, the Somali government’s news agency reported, citing a National Intelligence Agency official it didn’t identify.