32 dead as Somali ultras raid hotel

Six legislators among those killed; al Shabaab Islamists claim responsibility

32 dead as Somali ultras raid hotel

Government forces drag the body of an alleged Islamist  fighter along the streets of Mogadishu on Tuesday. AFP

The hardline al Shabaab Islamists who have been fighting to oust the fragile Western-backed “transitional government”, and control most of the city, claimed the attack.

The Information Ministry said the 32 dead included six members of parliament and five security personnel. “The blood of the dead is leaking out of the hotel,” said Information Minister Abdirahman Osman.

The assault underscored the failure of the government and more than 6,300 mostly
Ugandan African Union peacekeepers to bring order after nearly two decades of anarchy, making Somalia a continual source of instability for east Africa.

Last month, al Shabaab expanded its reach as far as Uganda, claiming a double suicide bombing of packed bars in the capital Kampala, to put pressure on it to pull its troops out.

Those attacks killed more than 70 people and jolted the African Union into increasing the peacekeeping contingent and considering giving it a mandate to fight the rebels.

On Tuesday, al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters in
Mogadishu that its fighters had “carried out an operation at Hotel Muna” and succeeded in killing government officials, MPs and civil servants.

The Muna Hotel stands in one of the small nominally government-controlled areas of the capital, between the presidential palace and the Indian Ocean. Osman said one gunman had been captured. His ministry said two others had blown themselves up, and that sporadic gunfire and shelling were continuing in the area.

“Some of the MPs had guns in their rooms and defended themselves before security forces arrived,” said an anonymous government security source.

New troops

On Monday, the African Union announced the arrival of hundreds of new peacekeeping troops, mostly Ugandans, for the AMISOM mission to help the government in its battle against al Shabaab.

The force has so far been able to do little more than guard the airport and port and shield President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Somalia’s members of parliament, the apparent targets of Tuesday’s attack, do not benefit from this protection.

“We have the same enemies... and I don’t know why the MPs don’t have the same security,” said pro-government lawmaker Abdiladif Muse Sanyare. He was speaking from Nairobi, where many of the MPs say they have to live to feel safe, even at the risk of alienating ordinary citizens.

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