Destruction and chaos erupted Friday (July 12) in Somalia’s southern port city of Kismayo. When the smoke cleared, a well-known terrorist group claimed responsibility.
According to The Times of Israel, the upscale Asasey Hotel was initially attacked with a suicide car bomb early Friday evening. The powerful blast of the suicide bombing destroyed the hotel’s front gate entrance area. Then well-armed gunmen moved in swiftly and deliberately to begin their ambush inside the building.
Before this day of terror, the Asasey Hotel was a place of splendor. The luxury lodge was frequented by prominent political figures and ritzy patrons who could afford the high nightly room rents. The Friday evening siege of the hotel lasted for 14 hours. By Saturday morning (July 13), the death toll had risen to 26 people.
Those who were killed in the attack came from several African countries. There were also two Americans who died in this murderous act of terrorism. A prominent, Somali-born Canadian journalist was among the dead.
A British citizen was killed as well and 56 people were seriously injured, according to Ahmed Madobe, President of Somalia’s Jubaland province.
Kismayo is the largest city in Jubaland. Mr. Madobe said in a statement to media outlets that some Chinese nationals were also among those injured in the deadly siege. Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a police official stationed in the area, gave the Associated Press more details about what transpired in the attack’s aftermath.
Col. Nur said that by early Saturday morning, his forces gunned down all of the remaining assailants who were still holed inside the compound. A special political event took place Friday at the Asasey Hotel. It is plausible to surmise that the high-profile nature of this politics-based gathering may have caused the hotel to be targeted.
Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based, Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist militia wasted no time admitting that it was the group, which carried out this coordinated hotel barrage.
Al-Shabaab’s signature brand of violence shows all of the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda’s influence. In August of 1998, Al-Qaeda also employed suicide car bombers for coordinated attacks, which nearly leveled the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, the late Al-Qaeda founder, was blamed for orchestrating those bombings.
Al-Shabaab is led by a shadowy figure named Emir Ahmad Umar. Eight industrialized countries across the world (including the United States) have labeled Al-Shabaab as an international terrorist organization. This Somalian group has carried out large-scale, sophisticated jihadist operations before.
In September of 2013, Al-Shabaab militants massacred patrons inside Nairobi, Kenya’s posh Westgate Shopping Mall. This gruesome act of terror killed over 70 people and wounded over 60. Militants blended in by wearing civilian clothes. They fired assault rifles and hurled grenades in the brazen terrorist attack.
Al-Shabaab’s Friday massacre in Kismayo wreaked havoc in a city, which has been relatively peaceful for years. The Canadian journalist of Somali descent who died in the hotel terrorist attack was named Hodan Nalayeh. Her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, also lost his life in the deadly siege.
Mrs. Nalayeh was admired for her work as a member of the press. She even had admirers in the United States, such as Imam Omar Suleiman, an American Islamic leader who lives in the U.S. state of Texas.
“I’m absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people,” Suleiman wrote in a July 12 tweet.
Somalia has become an unfettered staging area for Al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorist activity. Much like Afghanistan prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Somalia is not just a haven for Al-Qaeda or its Somali affiliates. Jihadist militants from all across the world are trained there in camps near the Golis Mountains.
The U.S. began using drones and other airstrikes to deter Al-Shabaab in June 2011 and the aerial assaults have continued. However, steady U.S. firepower delivered from the air alone has not crippled Al-Shabaab’s capacity to operate freely anywhere it desires inside East Africa.