Last Sunday, Somali police ended an overnight siege at a Mogadishu hotel, carried out by Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, Al-Shabab. From the bombing and shootout, 23 deaths and over 30 injured people were reported. Police officer Ali Nur stated that the majority of deaths were of police officers stationed near the hotel gate. Sources also reported the deaths of a former lawmaker and former government minister.
Saturday’s attack was carried out in a series of three blasts. The first explosion was from a suicide car bomb outside the popular hotel. Somali security officials said the first attacker stopped outside the hotel’s gates pretending to repair his truck. The second detonation occurred near the former parliament, and the third, when an attacker’s suicide vest detonated near the hotel. According to the Independent, an estimated number of 30 people, including government officials, were trapped inside the hotel during the siege. The police stated that there was an exchange of gunfire between the extremists and security forces, resulting in three attackers killed and two captured alive.
Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it was intentionally planned to “[target] ministers and security officials who were inside the hotel.” The extremist organization is notorious for targeting high-profile areas of Somalia’s capital, and is suspected of organizing the massive truck bombing that killed over 350 people two weeks ago.
The recent bloodshed has decreased public confidence in its military and government to protect its citizens. Hours after the attack, the government fired its police and intelligent chiefs. President Mohammed faces a critical challenge of unifying the long-fractured country in the status quo where the federal government has only recently gained legitimacy of authority in the capital and other major cities. Somalia currently hosts a 22,000 multinational African Union force, and is allied with the U.S. in military efforts against Al-Shabab. Also infamous for its advantageous military and financial location at the Eastern rim of the horn of Africa, the international donor community has invested billions of dollars in hopes of improving education and aiding humanitarian relief efforts. However, also ranked as one of the most corrupt government, very little of donor investments have been put into achieving intended goals. In a situation that looks seemingly hopeless with a weak and corrupt government, and increasingly strong and violent extremist presence, perhaps the recent government decision to dismiss the two chiefs could be the start of overhauling its security apparatus. This could be the beginning of an opportunity for the Somali government to rebuild it’s security infrastructure for a more efficient and effective police and military force to protect Somalia from extremist violence, proving to its people that the government is committed to protecting their lives and safety.