Somalia sacks its senior security officers following bomb attack

At least 23 killed and 30 wounded after Islamists stormed hotel in Mogadishu

Rescue workers search victims of a blast  after two car bombs exploded in Mogadishu. Photograph: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

Rescue workers search victims of a blast after two car bombs exploded in Mogadishu. Photograph: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

 

Somalia’s government has fired two of the country’s most senior security officials in the wake of a new attack by Islamist militants which killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 30 others at a hotel in the centre of the country’s capital, Mogadishu.

A statement from the prime minister’s office on Sunday said Abdullahi Mohamed Ali, director general of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, and Gen Abdihakim Said, the head of police, were sacked following a cabinet vote.

The move is aimed at restoring public confidence after a string of attacks including a truck bombing two weeks ago which killed more than 350 people on a busy Mogadishu street in one of the single most lethal terrorist strikes in recent years anywhere in the world.

Somali investigators have said al-Shabab was behind that bombing, though the group did not claim responsibility.

Despite the reshuffle, the attack this weekend will raise further questions about the ability of the Somali government to protect civilians in the capital.

The extremists stormed the Nasa-Hablod hotel, known as a favoured haunt of government officials, on Saturday afternoon after a suicide car bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the entrance gate.

Somali special forces finally secured the building on Sunday morning. Three gunmen were killed and two captured, local officials said.

The bodies of a woman and three children, including a baby, were found in the ruins of the hotel.

Al-Shabab

Al-Shabab, which is Africa’s deadliest Islamist extremist group, quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Analysts said the group’s prompt claim of responsibility for Saturday’s attack was in part intended to contrast with its failure to claim responsibility for the devastating attack earlier this month.

Al-Shabab say it strikes only military or official targets and would have seen no advantage in taking responsibility for an operation which killed many civilians and failed to hit its target, thought to be the heavily fortified airport compound in Mogadishu.

The site is home to the UN, embassies and the headquarters of African Union troops in Somalia.

The group, which has been fighting to establish an Islamist state in Somalia for a decade, has been hit hard in recent years by a series of offensives by government troops and the 22,000 strong African Union stationed in the country.

Significant casualties have also been inflicted on al-Shabaab’s leadership by US drones.

The US has been ramping up its presence in the anarchic and drought-hit east African country for some time, with a new push since US president Donald Trump took power.

US forces

Mr Trump has also authorised the deployment of regular US forces to Somalia for the first time since 1994. The US in effect pulled out of Somalia after 1993, when two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu and the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets.

Somalia’s president said the latest attack on the capital aimed to instill fear among people who showed unity after the bombing two weeks ago.

“They want to create fear among our people who showed support to the ongoing efforts aimed at pacifying the country,” president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who took power in February, said in a statement.

Mr Ali, the sacked intelligence chief, recently wrote a lengthy article in the New York Times criticising the international community for failing to help Somali security forces.

“We appealed to our international partners to share all information and evidence that they gathered from bombings in Somalia with the national authorities. The silence was deafening,” Mr Ali wrote.

Suggestions that Mr Ali was fired as a result of the article were misplaced, said one international official who works closely with the Somali government.

“There is simply a lot of public anger around at the moment and someone needed to carry the can,” the official said.–Guardian