Five heavily armed Islamic extremist rebels attacked the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital today before all were killed by security forces, police said.
The shootout spread from the heavily fortified government complex to the nearby SYL hotel where at least three people were killed during the two-hour firefight marked by sustained gunfire and grenade blasts, said Ahmed Ali, a Somali police officer.
He said 20 others, including government officials, were rescued from the hotel after security forces and guards fought off the attackers, denying them access to guest house frequented by government officials and Mogadishu’s elite.
Abdi-Aziz Abu Mus’ab, al Shabaab’s military spokesman, confirmed the jihadist group was behind the attack and said its fighters were inside the compound of the hotel.
Police Captain Mohamed Hussein said that soldiers shot dead three attackers near the entrance to the presidential residence and then killed the last two near the car park of the nearby hotel after they took positions by the kitchen area, close to the first gate of the hotel compound.
‘We thought they were police but they started hurling grenades and firing us when they neared and so we exchanged fire at the gate of the hotel,’ a police officer who gave his name as Ahmed said.
All five are now thought to have been killed by security forces.
The attack appears to be a new tactical shift by the rebels.
Previously they have used car bombs at heavily fortified targets to blow openings for gunmen to enter on foot.
This assault was carried out completely by gunmen on foot.
Security officials said new security measures, including multiple checkpoints across Mogadishu, have made it difficult for the rebels to sneak car bombs into the capital city and have forced the rebels to stage attacks on foot.
Al Shabaab, which once controlled much of the country, was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost most of its other strongholds.
But its fighters regularly attack sites in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, which has troops in Somalia.
The militant group, which frequently launches bomb and gun raids in Mogadishu in its bid to topple the U.N.-backed government, also attacked the SYL hotel, which is popular with government officials and lawmakers, in 2016.