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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Massacre’ at Somalia hotel leaves 31 dead

    BEIRUT — Insurgents in army uniforms stormed a hotel in the Somali capital Tuesday, killing at least 31 people, including six lawmakers, in an hourlong blaze of gunfire, explosions and smoke.

    The al-Shabab movement, an Islamic militant group that has fought the frail internationally backed government of Somalia for years, claimed responsibility for the attack. Statements from the group cited by news organizations indicated the assault was part of a “”massive war”” it declared Monday against the Somali government and the United Nations-backed peacekeeping force propping it up.

    The perpetually unstable and violent Horn of Africa country has been a source of instability since the early 1990s. Pirates roam its Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden shores while bandits, warlords and Islamic militants control much of the country despite a 6,000-person-strong African Union peacekeeping force in the country.

    A report Tuesday by privately owned Radio Shabeelle said the fighting between insurgent groups and government forces in the capital had been increasing over the last two days, with dozens killed and civilians bearing the brunt of the casualties.

    Witnesses to Tuesday’s attack told the Voice of America’s Somali service that three militants initially approached the Hotel Muna. A government news release citing police said the militants entered the hotel in Mogadishu’s Hamar Weyne district and “”fired indiscriminately”” at civilians. At one point, one of the militants blew himself up, possibly with a grenade, according to news accounts citing witnesses.

    A gun battle ensued as security forces arrived, the British Broadcasting Corp. cited a witness as saying. One hotel employee told Agence France-Presse he only survived because he managed to jump out of a window as a militant trained a gun on him. Another survivor told the BBC that corpses lay “”all over,”” calling the incident a “”massacre.”” Among the dead were hotel staff and five members of the security forces.

    The attack took place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time of dawn-to-dusk fasting and contemplation of the Quran.

    “”They have no motive other than to terrorize the Somali people,”” Minister of InformationAbdirahman Omar Osmansaid in a statement. “”This is a deplorable act in this holy month of Ramadan. It shows their brutality and lack of respect for humanity.””

    Al-Shabab and allied groups are trying to topple the Somali government. They control much of the capital and huge swaths of the countryside. The al-Shabab movement claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Uganda last month during the World Cup soccer finals that killed at least 70 and were seen as an attempt to weaken the Kampala government’s resolve to contribute to the bulk of the African Union force’s manpower.

    But the U.N. envoy to Somalia said the latest attack only reinforced its resolve to back the presence of the African Union forces from Uganda and Burundi in Somalia.

    Such violence, Augustine P. Mahiga, the envoy to Somalia, said in a statement, “”will only serve to increase the determination of all friends of Somalia to help bring a quick end to the conflict and to provide Somalis with hope for the future.””

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