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Car bombs strike hotel in Somali capital

© AFP (archive photo)

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-02

Al Shabaab rebels claimed Wednesday two car bombs outside an upscale hotel in Mogadishu that is often used by foreigners and government officials. At least 11 people were killed and 18 were injured in the attacks.

The explosions occurred one day after al Shabaab warned the Somali capital to brace for an attack.

"The number of dead is 11, with 18 others who were wounded," police commander Abdi Mohamed Jama said.

"However, the situation is now back to normal, mine experts have cleared the area for any possible explosive devices."

General Abdihakim Saed, Somalia's police chief, said two men who appeared to be suicide bombers also died during the attack when they tried to force their way into the Jazeera Hotel as the cars exploded, and security forces shot and killed them.

Police Captain Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press that shortly after the first explosion occurred outside the heavily guarded hotel civilians and hotel guards rushed to the scene. At that point, he said, the second car bomb exploded, causing most of the casualties.

Saed said the security forces had ``foiled'' what could have been a much deadlier New Year's Day attack. ``Our forces were on high alert for about two days after we received information about an imminent attack,'' he said.

"This is the beginning of 2014," Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said in a New Year message, a day after the hotel attacks.

Al Shabaab "takes full responsibility for last night's attack that targeted a meeting of senior apostate intelligence officials in Mogadishu," Rage added.

"The apostates are the eyes and ears of the invaders, and these attacks serve as a well-deserved punishment for their role in guiding and assisting the invading forces in their crusade against Islam and the Muslims of Somalia."

In a radio message Tuesday, a senior al Shabaab commander warned civilians to stay away from government buildings as well as sites controlled or owned by foreigners. The commander, Ali Mohammed Hussein, said attacks were imminent in Mogadishu.

The Jazeera Hotel, which is near Mogadishu's international airport, has been the target of previous terrorist attacks. In September 2012, it was the scene of an assassination attempt on Somalia's president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, on his second day in office.

Al Shabaab once controlled Mogadishu, but they were ousted from the capital in August 2011. Despite some security gains made in the city over the years, the militants still penetrate the seaside capital to carry out suicide attacks.

Neighbouring Kenya has been the scene of multiple terrorist attacks since the country sent its military to Somalia in 2011 to fight al Shabaab. In September, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people, which they said it was in retribution for Kenya's involvement in Somalia.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2014-01-01

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