Kenya’s Somalia envoy survives Shabaab attack
Somalia’s Al-Shabaab insurgents assassinated a lawmaker and his guards, the president said late on Saturday, hours after US President Barack Obama said the Al-Qaeda affiliated militants had been “weakened”.
Gunmen sprayed the car of MP Abdulahi Hussein Mohamud with gunfire as he travelled through a southern district of the capital Mogadishu earlier Saturday, killing him, his two guards and the driver.
The Kenyan Ambassador to Somalia, Lucas Tumbo survived the incident which left two Kenyans injured but are in stable condition according to Foreign Affairs Office in Nairobi.
President Hassan Sheik Mohamud said he was “devastated” at the attack, the latest in a string of murders of Somalia’s lawmakers.
“The lawmaker was martyred while serving the nation, but such killings will not deter us from going forward,” President Mohamud told reporters.
The Shabaab said in a statement that their “mujahedeen fighters targeted and killed a member of the parliament and his guards”, adding that they “will continue targeting” lawmakers.
The Shabaab have carried out repeated attacks including a campaign of suicide attacks and assassinations targeting government figures.
UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay called the murders a “despicable act”. Witnesses said the militants fled after the attack.
“They opened fire on the car of the lawmaker and all of the passengers including him died,” witness Abdirahman Mire said.
Later, today, at least six people were killed when a suspected car bomb exploded at a heavily guarded hotel in Mogadishu housing diplomatic missions and frequented by government officials and international workers.
“We have seen around six people killed, most of them hotel security guards,” said government security officer Mohamed Jama, adding that casualty numbers might rise.
A huge blast shook the area on Sunday afternoon sending a thick plume of smoke high into the air. The African Union force, AMISOM, which is fighting the Shabaab insurgents, confirmed the explosion at the Jazeera Palace Hotel.
“There was a heavy explosion at the Jazeera Palace hotel, there are casualties,” said police officer Abdirahman Ahmed.
Local resident Abdihakim Ainte, a political analyst, was nearby when the bomb exploded and described a “huge blast” that smashed his window.
He said the hotel, which has been attacked several times in the past by Islamist gunmen, had been “torn apart” by the blast.
Photographs shared on social media showed one side of the multi-storey hotel shredded by the explosion.
Mohamed Moalim was inside the hotel when the bomb exploded.
“It was a truck loaded with explosives — and the biggest ever (explosion) around this area,” he said. The diplomatic missions of both China and Qatar are based in the hotel.
There was no immediate claim of responsiblity, but the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab have attacked the hotel before as part of their regular bombing campaign.
The Shabaab are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government which is propped up and protected by the 22,000-strong AMISOM.
The Shabaab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government which is propped up and protected by the 22,000-strong African Union force (AMISOM).
The attack came as Obama, on a visit to neighbouring Kenya, praised AMISOM’s efforts, but said while the insurgents had been “weakened”, the overall security threat posed by the group remained.
“We have been able to decrease their effective control within Somalia and have weakened those networks operating here in East Africa. That doesn’t mean the problem is solved,” President Obama said.