Shock, grief in Mogadishu as Al-Shabaab kill civilians at hotel

Dayah Hotel in Mogadishu after it was hit by a car bomb, January 25, 2017 (Credit: Somalia Federal Minister of Planning Abdi Aynte / Twitter)

Citizens of Mogadishu are in shock after losing loved ones in an attack by Al-Shabaab on the Dayah Hotel.

“My lovely brother Tahlil Abdi Shire Kadiye died of injuries from the explosion at the Hotel Dayah,” said Ali Mahad Kadiye, a Somali journalist in Mogadishu. “My heart is truly saddened. I send my condolence to my family – his injury was severe.”

Militants rammed a car bomb into the hotel and then opened fire on civilians with small arms. Security forces rushing to defend civilians at the hotel ultimately killed all four attackers but lost seven of their own men in the effort, according to Minister of Internal Security Abdirizaq Omar Mohamed.

A dozen or more civilians were killed including two elders from southwest Somalia identified as Malaq Malabow Ishak and Malaq Abdirashid Abdisalam. A second explosion shook the area shortly after the initial attack, injuring first-responders and journalists who had come to the scene and killing more civilians.

Mogadishu residents speaking with The Messenger expressed shock at the brutal attack. A mother of three children said she initially feared for the life of her son who was separated from her after the attack.

She said, “My son was walking in the street near the hotel at the time of explosions. He was going to school. The school manager called me and informed me of the explosion – I was shocked when I heard it, but my son turned out not to be hurt but he is in shock.”

Speaking at the hospital, victims Mohamed Yusuf (27 years old) and Ahmed Ali (17 years old) said they were innocent bystanders who were caught by the bomb: “We were walking in the street at the time of the explosion, we just heard a huge explosion – the earth shook, we lost our cell phones and shoes.”

According to the director of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, 28 people died in the attack on the hotel, though it is not clear whether this tally includes the four attackers. At least 43 people were also wounded.

Among the wounded were seven journalists identified as Abdulkadir Abdullahi Ga’al (HornCable TV), Farah Abdi Warsame (AP news agency), Abdulkadir Abdullahi (Radio Kulmiye), Yusuf Jama Abdullahi (Aljazeera TV), Mohamed Abdihakin Ismael (Horn Connect), Mohamed Abdiwahab (AFP news agency), and Reuters office administrator Bille Gocose.

“Today was a painful day,” wrote journalist Abdi Guled on his Facebook, referring to the injuries suffered by his colleagues. “Wish you a quick recovery, my heroes!”

Not all of their injuries were critical but some journalists were badly hurt, said Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists. “We condemn the continued vile attacks against civilians. Most of the journalists were injured in the legs, head or chest – some are critical,” he said.

Duniyo Ali Mohamed, head of the health department of Medina hospital, told reporters that some of the injured were discharged back to their houses after being treated.

Mohamed Abdihakin Ismael, a cameraman working for Horn Connect, said that one of his hands was broken and that shrapnel entered his head and other parts of his body. “The security forces informed us to avoid the scene at the time the second explosion happened,” he recalled.

In spite of the casualties, Al-Shabaab failed to accomplish what may have been the real purpose of the attack – to kill politicians inside the hotel including about a dozen members of parliament who escaped. One government minister, Abdi Aynte, even denied that the gunmen had managed to enter into the hotel at all, though this was contradicted by other accounts.

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“The destruction is unimaginable,” Aynte commented. But he added that the Dayah hotel owners are “determined to get back to business.”

The United Nations’ top representative in Somalia, Michael Keating, called the attack “outrageous,” pointing to the many civilians killed or maimed in the attack. “Deep sympathies to all affected,” he wrote.