MOGADISHU: The death toll from a deadly weekend attack on a hotel in Mogadishu has risen to 27, the Somali government said Sunday, announcing the dismissal of the country’s police and intelligence chiefs.
The move came after Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab gunmen staged coordinated bomb attacks outside a hotel in the north of the Somali capital on Saturday before storming the building.
The latest toll was given by Security Minister Mohamed Abukar Islow at a Cabinet meeting at which ministers approved the dismissal of intelligence agency boss Abdillahi Mohamed Sanbalooshe and police chief Abdihakim Dahir Said.
The two were “fired for the purpose of serious accountability,” said a statement read by Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman after the meeting.
The sackings come two weeks after Somalia suffered its deadliest-ever terrorist attack in which at least 358 people were killed in a huge truck bombing in Mogadishu.
Osman said five people had so far been arrested in connection with the Oct. 14 attack.
The attack proved once again that insurgents can carry out deadly assaults in the heart of the Somali capital.
The attack began around at 5 p.m. on Saturday when a car bomb rammed the gates of Nasahablod Two hotel, which is close to the presidential palace, and destroyed the hotel’s defenses. Then gunmen stormed the building.
The explosion destroyed the front of the three-story hotel and damaged the hotel next door. Many Somali officials live in fortified hotels for the security they offer.
Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Amin ambulances, complained the emergency service had been denied access to the blast site.
“After the hotel operation was over, we wanted to transport the casualties… all entrances of the scene were blocked by security forces.”
Al-Shabaab said 40 people had been killed, including three of its fighters who stormed the hotel. The government and Al-Shabaab typically give different figures for victims in such attacks.
The militant group wants to overthrow the weak, UN-backed government and impose a strict form of Islamic law.
Al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu. Although it quickly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, it has not commented on the massive attack two weeks ago; experts have said the death toll in the earlier bombing was so high that the group hesitated to alienate Somali citizens.
Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the new attack was meant to instill fear in Somalis who united after the Oct. 14 bombing, marching in the thousands through Mogadishu in defiance of Al-Shabab.
Since the blast two weeks ago, the president has visited regional countries to seek more support for the fight against Al-Shabab, vowing a “state of war.” He also faces the challenge of pulling together regional powers inside his long-fractured country, where the federal government is trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities.
The US military also has stepped up military efforts against Al-Shabab this year in Somalia, carrying out nearly 20 drone strikes, as the global war on extremism moves deeper into the African continent.
The US mission in Somalia on Sunday condemned the latest attack, saying the US “remains committed to working with our Somali, African Union, and international partners to degrade and defeat terrorism as Somalia continues on a path to stability and prosperity for its people.”
OIC condemns attack
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen, on Sunday strongly condemned the attack in Mogadishu.
The OIC chief, who deplored the persistent assaults against the security forces and innocent civilians by the Al-Shabab, conveyed his deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families, government and people of Somalia over these dastardly and un-Islamic acts which violate all known human values.
While reiterating the OIC’s full solidarity with the authorities in Somalia in their sustained fight against terrorism, he called on international partners of Somalia and countries in the region to enhance their support and strengthen partnership with Somalia in order to eradicate the menace that Al-Shabab continues to pose to regional peace, security and stability.