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Al-Shabab fighters killed as overnight siege of Mogadishu hotel ends

Storming of hotel near Somalia’s presidential palace highlights resilience of the al-Qaeda affiliate.

A 13-hour siege of a popular hotel near government buildings in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has ended after the al-Shabab fighters who had taken control of the building were killed by security forces.

“All the terrorist gunmen were killed, and the situation has returned to normal now,” police officer Abdirahim Yusuf told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Friday. “The security forces are carrying out a thorough clearance and investigations.”

The Reuters news agency reported that three soldiers were killed in clashes, with 27 people wounded. It was not immediately clear how many fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group were killed.

Fighters had stormed the SYL Hotel in a hail of bullets late on Thursday, and al-Shabab claimed responsibility in a brief statement.

The attack on the hotel, popular with government officials, demonstrated the group’s continued ability to strike the capital despite a major military offensive by the internationally backed federal government and local clan militias, supported by an African Union (AU) mission and United States air strikes.

As part of the attack, a suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives in front of the hotel, killing at least five people, the German Press Agency dpa reported.

“As far as we know, one terrorist, three hotel security officers and two members of the security services were killed in the attack,” police spokesman Qasim Ahmed Roble said on Friday.

Omar Mahmood, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said it was a “highly significant attack that shatters a sense of calm in Mogadishu”.

“It also serves as a signal from al-Shabab that despite much heralded efforts by this government to weaken them, the group remains active and resilient and even able to hit the government close to home,” Mahmood added.

The SYL Hotel has been the target of several al-Shabab attacks despite being in a high-security area of the city due to its location opposite the presidential palace.

Somali security officers take position on the rooftop at a section of Syl Hotel, the scene of an al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group's attack in Mogadishu, Somalia
Somali security officers take positions on the rooftop at a section of the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on March 15, 2024 [Feisal Omar/Reuters]

Strong presence

Al-Shabab has been waging war against the Somali government for more than 16 years.

The armed group was born out of Somalia’s many years of anarchy after a 1991 civil war. Over time, an AU-led force with the backing of the US and other countries pushed the group out of Mogadishu.

Since then, al-Shabab has been battling the government and the AU-mandated peacekeeping mission as it seeks to establish a new administration based on its interpretation of Islamic law.

It retains a strong presence in rural Somalia and has carried out numerous attacks against political, security and civilian targets, including in Mogadishu.

In August 2022, 21 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a 30-hour siege on the Hayat Hotel in the capital. Two months later, 100 people were killed and 300 were wounded in twin car bombings in Mogadishu.

In February this year, at least 10 people were killed  in multiple attacks in a crowded market in Mogadishu.

That same month, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the General Gordon military base in Mogadishu, which killed several people, including four Emirati soldiers and a Bahraini military officer.

Al-Shabab sees the United Arab Emirates as an “enemy” of Islamic law for backing the Somali government in battling the armed group.

It has also carried out attacks in neighbouring Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi’s provision of troops and material to the AU force in Somalia.


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