Somalia says 12 Shebab killed in hotel raids

Workers clear debris at the scene of an explosion at the gate of Siyad hotel after Friday night's attack in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, July 11, 2015. At least six civilians and four militants were killed when al Shabaab Islamists attacked two hotels in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Friday, police said. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on the Wehliya Hotel and said it had also laid siege to another hotel in the city, the Siyad, where gunfire continued into the night near the presidential palace. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

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Somalia’s government said Saturday that 12 Shebab militants were killed in Friday evening’s raids on two heavily-fortified Mogadishu hotels.

Internal Security Minister Abdirasak Omar Mohamed told reporters that “it was only them (the attackers) who died” in the coordinated suicide strikes.

“The violent elements attacked the Weheliye and Siyaad hotels in order to disrupt people from breaking their fast in peace. Seven attackers were involved in the hotel Weheliye attack while five attackers were involved in the Siyaad hotel, and all of them were killed,” he said.

However a statement from the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, said the raids “resulted in the death and injuries of civilians, members of the security forces, AMISOM (African Union) troops and government officials”.

Security sources said late Friday at least five people died, and witnesses said at least a dozen people were wounded. The evening also saw mortar rounds fired at Mogadishu’s former main football stadium, now a key base for African Union troops.

The two hotels are both fortified and heavily guarded, and are popular with lawmakers from the nearby parliament, as well as government workers and businessmen.

Shebab insurgents have carried out repeated attacks in the area, and messages posted on websites close to the Al-Qaeda-linked group said the Islamists claimed responsiblity for the hotel raids.

The Islamic militants have stepped up their attacks during Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan, and the Friday raids came as people settled down to break their daylight fast.

The Shebab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government which is propped up and protected by a 22,000-strong African Union force, AMISOM.

Shebab attacks seek to counter claims that they are close to defeat after losing territory in the face of an AU and Somali government offensive and regular US drone strikes against their leaders as well as facing defections.

Mogadishu was quiet early Saturday, with road traffic gradually starting to use the road where the attacked hotels are located. The area was however littered with the debris of destroyed vehicles, electrical and telephone wires as well as dust and tree branches.

Somalia’s defence minister, Abdukadir Sheik Ali Dini, said the Shebab would be defeated.

“We call on the Somali parents to stop their children from being misled by the terrorists, we assure you that our security forces with the help of the people will remain determined to defeat the violent elements,” he told reporters.

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