Somalia vows crackdown after siege that killed 20

The explosion happened next to a luxury hotel in Mogadishu. (AFP)
Updated 02 March 2019

Somalia vows crackdown after siege that killed 20

  • Elite soldiers rescued 35 civilians who were used as human shields by the militants
  • The unrest began after an Al-Shabab militant blew himself up using a car bomb in the capital Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia: At least 20 people died in an attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu, which saw Al-Shabab insurgents battling security forces for nearly 24 hours before the siege ended, officials said Saturday.
As the standoff ended, the government vowed to step up efforts to fight the extremists, with the deadly siege the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group.
“The Somali government will never stop its war on Al-Shabab, our aim is to be done with them, whatever the cost,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire told reporters late on Friday.
The premier also praised the courage of the elite soldiers who he said had rescued 35 civilians used as “human shields” by the assailants.
The attack began on Thursday evening at around 1800 GMT, when a Shabab militant in a car blew himself up, causing a huge blast that ripped the front off a major hotel and left several cars in flames on the busy street.
Other fighters then stormed inside a building housing a restaurant, where they were quickly surrounded by police.
Medics pulled five bodies from the wreckage immediately after the explosion, but the recovery of more bodies was blocked for hours by the ensuing fighting.
Sporadic shooting continued until officials finally declared an end to the siege late Friday afternoon.
“Our teams have recovered one more dead body after the operation was over and this makes the overall number of the confirmed dead 20,” Aamin Ambulance director Abdikadir Abdirahman told AFP on Saturday.
At least 112 people were admitted to the city’s three main hospitals, medical sources said.
At a press conference, Somali security forces held up photos showing the alleged bodies of four of the attackers.
In a statement posted on a pro-Shabab website, the militants confirmed that four of their number had been killed, adding that others had managed to escape.
It said the fighters waged a “martyrdom-seeking” operation against a “luxury hotel inhabited by government officials and security service officers.”
Witnesses said the initial car bomb attack occurred as the street was filled with people relaxing after a day at work.
The explosion was so powerful that it tossed several vehicles into the air that then burst into flames.
“The whole area was in flames,” said Abdisamed Mohamed, a witness.
The Shabab emerged out of the Islamic courts system that once controlled central and southern Somalia. The group is believed to have between 5,000 and 9,000 men.
In 2010, the Shabab declared its allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
The following year, its fighters were chased out of Mogadishu by the 22,000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM.
They have since lost many of their strongholds but retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war, frequently hitting Mogadishu.


Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

Updated 12 min 26 sec ago

Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

  • Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018
  • Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s attorney general said Friday that two men had confessed to killing a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group as part of a plot to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
His shooting death last week sparked days of protests and ethnic violence that killed 239 people, according to police figures.
“The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force,” attorney general Abebech Abbebe said in a statement Friday aired on state television, without providing details.
Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.
Abebech said that along with the two men who have allegedly confessed to the crime, the government has identified a third suspect who remains on the run.
One of the men in custody identified the masterminds of the alleged plot as members of a rebel group the government believes is affiliated with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, Abebech said.
The OLF, a former rebel movement, returned to Ethiopia from exile after Abiy took office and has repeatedly disavowed any links to armed insurgents.
The Internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy’s office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had “returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities.”
In her statement, however, Abebech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.
“There are those that have hidden themselves in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads and to cease working as part of a rebellion call,” Abebech said.
“Above all we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it.”