Six lawmakers among 32 dead in Mogadishu hotel carnage
Somali Islamist militants disguised as government soldiers went on a shooting rampage in a Mogadishu hotel Tuesday, killing 30 people including six lawmakers before blowing themselves up.
The brazen attack by two rebels from the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab movement a stone's throw from the presidential palace marked a new escalation on the second day of clashes in the capital that had already left 29 civilians dead.
"Thirty people died in this ambush. Six of them are members of the Somali parliament and four are Somali government civil servants," Deputy Prime Minister Abdirahman Haji Adan Ibbi told reporters.
"The 20 others are innocent civilians who died in this horrible incident."
An AFP reporter who managed to enter the Hotel Mona compound said the doors of every single room and even the toilets had been smashed open by the two attackers.
Officials visiting the scene of the carnage held their noses because of the stench of burned flesh and smoke.
Witnesses and hotel staff said the attackers were wearing government security uniforms and shot dead security guards at the gate to the compound as they rushed into the three-storey building.
"They rained gunfire on everybody. Nobody stood a chance. I was lucky because they aimed at me but I jumped out of the window and survived," hotel employee Adan Mohamed told AFP.
"People were screaming, there was total panic. When they decided they had finished killing everybody, they climbed to the balcony and started opening fire on government forces outside the hotel," he added.
One government soldier who took part in the fighting and refused to give his name said one of the men detonated his suicide vest on the balcony when he saw they were surrounded.
"These two guys were on the balcony, close together, shouting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest). It seems one of them failed to detonate his vest but the other did and that probably killed both of them," he said.
"One of them was blown to pieces, only the head remains. The other one's body is completely burned, he is all black," the soldier added.
Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage claimed responsibility for the attack during a phone press conference.
"Our commando units carried out this attack," he said.
The bloodbath at the Hotel Mona, which lies in the small area of Mogadishu firmly under government control and provides accommodation for dozens of lawmakers and other officials, came on the second day of a deadly battle in the city.
The transitional government, Britain, the United States and the United Nations condemned the attack.
"They have no motive other than to terrorise the Somali people," Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow said in a statement.
"This is a deplorable act in this holy month of Ramadan. It shows their brutality and lack of respect for humanity."
Henry Bellingham, Britain's Foreign Office minister for Africa, condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the attack during the holy month of Ramadan.
"Those responsible have shown no regard for human life, the suffering of the Somali people or those who are working for peace and stability in Somalia.
"These attacks highlight, once again, the immensely difficult security situation in which the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions operate."
Bellingham said Britain was committed to working with Somalis to build a "peaceful and stable" Somalia.
John Brennan, the US administration's top anti-terrorism adviser, said the United States was saddened by the loss of life.
"This is a particularly outrageous act during the Islamic month of Ramadan. And the Shebab's vision for Africa stands in sharp contrast to the vision of the overwhelming majority of Africans," he said.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the attack "highlights Al-Shebab's complete disregard for human life, Somali culture, and Islamic values".
Augustine Mahiga, the UN special representative for Somalia, said: "These callous, brutal acts, which were clearly aimed at causing maximum bloodshed to innocent people, defy rational comprehension."
The African Union mission in Somalia, which has deployed more than 6,000 troops in Mogadishu to protect the government and support its anti-insurgency operations, also condemned the Mona Hotel suicide attack.
The Shebab claimed responsibility for multiple suicide attacks in Kampala on July 11 that killed at least 76 people.
They said the blasts were in retaliation for Uganda's leading role in the African Union mission, which is effectively their last impediment to seizing control of the presidency.
© 2010 AFP