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Militants 'slaughter' lawmakers at Somali hotel


MOGADISHU, Somalia — A suicide bomber and gunmen dressed in Somali military uniforms stormed a hotel in the country's capital Tuesday, killing at least 31 people including six members of parliament, the Somali government said.

Legislator Mohamed Hasan told Reuters that attackers "slaughtered" the politicians.

Somali security forces seized one gunman alive but two remained at-large, Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman said.

"Three men disguised as government (troops) attacked the hotel," he told Reuters. "Government officials were killed."

The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on the Muna hotel. Al-Shabab has been waging a three-year insurgency against the fragile Western-backed government in the chaotic Horn of African country.

Parliamentarians often live at Mogadishu hotels while in the capital city.

 

'Dead bodies all over'
Another lawmaker who was at the Muna hotel told The Associated Press there were "dead bodies all over" — at least 20 lying in the corridor of the hotel — and he labeled the scene a massacre.

The parliamentarian spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear for his safety.

He said the suicide bomber blew himself up near the reception area before gunmen stormed the hotel, setting off a gunbattle that lasted about an hour.

A hotel worker who fled the building also said one of the attackers was a suicide bomber and had blown himself up. Eyewitnesses later said that police had entered the hotel.

An 11-year-old boy and a woman selling tea in front of the hotel were among the dead, an official said.

Islamist al-Shabab fighters hold a position on Monday at a camp in northern Mogadishu’s minutes before they engaged in an offensive against Somali government forces.

The hotel attack followed two days of fighting that killed at least 40 civilians and wounded more than 130 in Mogadishu, officials said. Somalia hasn't had a central government since 1991.

'Massive war'
The fighting began Monday, soon after the spokesman for Somalia's most dangerous militant group declared a "massive war" on what he labeled "invaders," an apparent reference to the more than 6,300 troops from the African Union that protect and prop up the weak Somali government.

The United Nations recognizes the Somali government, but it controls no more than a few city blocks. The African Union peacekeepers can do little more than guard the airport and port and shield President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Uganda, which provides the bulk of the African Union force, said last month it was willing to send an additional 2,000 peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country after more than 70 people were killed when two coordinated blasts killed fans watching the World Cup in Kampala.

Al-Shabab said the attacks were in retaliation for Uganda's deployment of troops with the African Union.

The group has increased the use of suicide attacks in recent years, though they are still somewhat rare in Somalia. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are believed to be helping train al-Shabab fighters.

Insurgents, who control much of the capital and large areas in central and south Somalia, have attracted foreign fighters to the lawless country.

More than 21,000 Somalis have been killed in fighting since the start of the insurgency, 1.5 million have been uprooted from their homes and nearly half a million are sheltering in other countries in the region.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report on Monday that a quarter of Somalia's population, or 2 million people, needed humanitarian aid.


Tags: africa, somalia
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