Somalian Islamic terrorists al-Shabaab have attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, leaving nine dead after setting off a car bomb outside a park. The attack on the heavily-fortified SYL Hotel, named after the Somali Youth League, left plumes of smoke billowing high above the city. At least 30 people were injured in the attack.
Police in the Somalian capital have said three of the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents were shot dead by officers. Al-Shabaab immediately claimed responsibility for the double attack and said they had stormed the hotel, although it is not clear whether they gained access inside or not.
The car bomb struck a gate of the Peace Garden Park behind the hotel. Eye-witnesses said that people were in the park when the blast took place, but escaped out of an alternate entrance. Police Major Ahmed Abdullahi told Reuters that the area is now secured.
Al-Shabaab, which means "The Youth", is an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union – a rival administration to the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. They aim to overthrow the Western-backed Somali government and impose its own version of Islam in the country.
"My sister, classmates and I were taking pictures at the peace garden when the car bomb hit the gate of the park. We all rushed through the back gates," witness Halima Nur said after the attack.
Al Shabaab has often launched deadly attacks in Mogadishu on Fridays, which marks the first day of the Somali weekend, as more people are out visiting hotels and restaurants.
Over 20 people were killed by the Islamist militants when they attacked a popular beachfront restaurant in Mogadishu in January . The Beach View Cafe on Mogadishu's popular Lido beach was targeted by the extremists who let off at least two car bombs.
"We started with a car bomb and then stormed the hotel. We are inside it and fighting continues," al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, said earlier on 26 February.
Earlier this month, the jihadists retook the key port city of Merca, just 45 miles from Mogadishu. According to the militants themselves they killed 200 African Union troops, mainly from Kenyan, who were stationed southern Somali town of El-Ade.