Insurgents in Somalia kill at least 33 in attack on hotel
NAIROBI — Somali insurgents disguised as police officers stormed a Mogadishu hotel yesterday morning and opened fire, killing at least 33 people, including six lawmakers, in one of the deadliest attacks in months, Somali officials said.
A fierce room-by-room battle then broke out between the attackers and government forces, who rushed to the three-story hotel and surrounded it by noon, pushing the gunmen to the upper floor. According to witnesses, several lawmakers tried to lock themselves in their rooms but were methodically hunted down.
“They killed everyone they saw inside the hotel and then blew themselves up,’’ said Abdirahman Omar Osman, Somalia’s information minister.
Earlier reports that one of the attackers was a woman proved unfounded.
The hotel attack seems to be part of a bigger offensive that insurgents opened Monday against government forces. It also shows that the insurgents have infiltrated almost all of Mogadishu, even within the parts of the capital that the government contends it firmly controls. Dozens of people have been killed over the past few days in street battles and mortar barrages that sent shells crashing into neighborhoods and camps for internally displaced people.
“There’s been fierce fighting, and the government is getting pushed back,’’ said Abdirizak Farah, a shopkeeper who fled his home yesterday to seek shelter closer to government troops.
The Shabab, a Somali insurgent group that has sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda, is spearheading the battles and has vowed to topple the government.
The transitional government, which controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu, said the attack during the holy month of Ramadan is “against Islamic religion,’’ and the government is calling on all Somalis to fight back.