‘Children of hell’: Somali PM decries al-Shabab after hotel siege

Hamza Abdi Barre calls on Somalis to unite against al-Shabab after the armed group killed more than 20 people in a brazen attack.

A Somali security officer walks past a section of Hotel Hayat during siege
Authorities say more than 100 people, including women and children, were rescued in the three-day operation [File: Feisal Omar/Reuters]

Somalia’s prime minister has promised accountability after a deadly Mogadishu hotel siege by al-Shabab, calling the armed group “children of hell”.

Hamza Abdi Barre also called on Monday for Somalis to unite against the al-Qaeda-linked group, which has been waging a bloody rebellion in the Horn of Africa nation for more than 15 years.

“There will be accountability in the government… Anyone who neglected the responsibility he was entrusted with will be held accountable,” Barre told reporters.

“There is only one of two choices here: we either allow al-Shabab – the children of hell – to live; or we live. We cannot live together,” said Barre, appointed prime minister in June.

He was speaking after visiting a hospital treating victims of the bomb-and-gun attack on the Hayat Hotel, which the health ministry said killed 21 people and wounded 117 others.

Authorities said more than 100 people, including women and children, were rescued during the siege.

Deadliest attack under Mahamud

The 30-hour siege was the deadliest attack in Mogadishu since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected in May after a protracted political crisis.

Al-Shabab fighters stormed the hotel on Friday evening with the siege only ending on Saturday night after security forces bombarded the building, leaving much of it in ruins.

The Hayat was a favoured meeting spot for government officials, and crowds were inside when a suicide bomber triggered an enormous blast, opening a way into the site for heavily armed gunmen.

Minutes later, a second explosion struck as rescuers, security forces, and civilians rushed to help the injured.

Al-Shabab has carried out several attacks since Mohamud took office. Last month it also mounted an incursion into neighbouring Ethiopia and raided a military base on the border.

Earlier this month, the United States said its forces killed 13 al-Shabab operatives in an air raid, the latest strike since US President Joe Biden in May ordered the re-establishment of a US troop presence in Somalia, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump.

The group was driven out of Mogadishu by an African Union force in 2011. However, it still controls swathes of countryside and retains the ability to launch deadly attacks, often hitting hotels and restaurants as well as military and political targets.

The deadliest attack occurred in October 2017 when a truck packed with explosives blew up in Mogadishu, killing 512 people.

Source: News Agencies