NAIROBI – A series of car bombs killed at least 20 people Friday in the Somali capital, in Mogadishu, in attacks claimed by the extremist group of al-Shabab.
At least three bombs exploded outside a hotel near the headquarters of the Somalia Bureau of Criminal Investigations, and a shoot-out followed when four militants tried in vain to break into the hotel, officials said. The Associated Press reported that a fourth bomb exploded while doctors attempted to rescue injured people.
Somali officials said police officers and hotel security guards fired and killed four militants as they attempted to detonate a hole that one of the explosions opened in a wall of the Sahafi Hotel, frequented by government officials and which seemed to be the main focus of the attacks. At least two other militants were killed when they detonated their suicide car bombs.
According to some witnesses, the first car bomb hit Hotel Sahafi, adjacent to the Hayat hotel, on a busy road in Mogadishu. The second car exploded on a road between the Department of Criminal Investigations and the Hotel Sahafi, while a third bomb exploded on another road behind the hotel.
The bombs exploded a few minutes after 4 pm. when the streets were full of pedestrians and traffic. Cars, minibuses and motorcycles were incinerated by explosions. At least 17 people were reported injured in the explosions.
A spokesman for al-Shabab, an Islamist group connected to the terrorist network of al-Qaeda, said that the hotel was targeted because "it serves as a government base," Reuters news agency reported. . "Government officials and security forces are always in the hotel," spokesman Abdiasisi Abu Musab said.
Among those killed was Abdifatah Abdirashid, the manager of Hotel Sahafi, reported the news agencies. He took over the hotel after his father was killed in an al-Shabab attack on the building in 2015.
Al-Shabab continues to control large parts of southern and central Somalia. He has made deadly attacks on high profile targets in Mogadishu and other cities and towns, including places in neighboring Kenya.
Last month, Somalia marked the anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks by al-Shabab, a 2017 truck-bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 500 people.
Supporting the Somali federal government in its fight against al-Shabab is a regional peacekeeping force known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The mission supported by U.N.with the contribution of troops from Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Burundi, he helped the Somali government to strengthen its national army as part of a plan to recover parts of the country controlled by al-Shabab.
Last year, the mission announced that it would reduce its troops to Somalia, a process that would continue until 2021. However, the contributing States remain concerned about insecurity in the region and fear that the forces of Somalia are not yet ready to assume full responsibility for national security.