Another hotel in Mogadishu, another terrorist attack, another siege and yet again the same security gaps as the militant group Al-Shabab has intensified its attacks in recent months. The police spokesman said 6 assailants stormed the Villa Rose Guest House early evening yesterday.
Government officials and ministers have used the hotel as their residence in Mogadishu due to its heavily guarded area as it is just a few meters from the Villa Somalia Presidential Palace.
Ministers rescued from the hotel, and other eyewitnesses, said they first heard two huge explosions at the front door which shook the building before a sustained exchange of gunfire was heard.
20 hours later, the Somali security forces were working to end the long night siege of the hotel now under control. It would be the second longest siege security forces have faced to defeat a complex terrorist attack since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took power in Somalia six months ago.
Last August, the attack on the Hayat hotel which lasted more than 30 hours became the symbol of the ineptitude of this administration in terms of security.
Now, once again government security forces, especially the US-trained Alpha Group and Danab forces, struggled to dislodge Al-Shabab members holed up at the Villa Rose hotel and end the attack.
The Somali government has yet to comment on the damage caused by the attack that lasted for almost a day, which Al-Shabab claimed to have increased its attacks in the capital in recent days.
The police spokesman reported at the end of the siege that eight people had been killed, sixty people including civilians and government officials had been rescued and one soldier had died in the line of duty.
“Government forces killed five of the six attackers, while the sixth blew himself up. Insurgents killed eight civilians in the hotel. Security forces managed to rescue 60 civilians,” the spokesperson said.
Once the attack started, the president was sneaked from his palace to a location in Halane, Mogadishu’s heavily fortified “green zone” home to diplomats and foreign workers guarded by African troops and private security firms.
President Hassan Sheikh spent the night there and attended today’s International Investment Conference held in the Halane zone. He will remain there until the area of Villa Somalia is secured. This would be the first for a decade a Somali president would run from his palace due to insecurity.
On the other hand, reports from some local media indicate that Internal Security Minister Ahmed Doodishe was among those injured in this attack, as he broke his leg while trying to flee the hotel through a window. The Deputy Minister of Defense was also injured.
The situation is now very tense, but security officials say that in the coming hours they will end the operation, and then they will announce the loss including death, injury and property damage.
The now sidelined Haram’ad Tactical Police Unit would have ended such sieges within hours. Unfortunately, the Somali president and his director of intelligence, accused of being Al-Shabab agent and behind the assassination of Farhan Qarole, the last Haram’ad chief, are wary of this Turkish-trained police force.
Serious concerns and suspicions have been expressed as to how Al-Shabab was able to pass through numerous checkpoints unhindered and was able to attack a building located in a heavily guarded security area, and where there is a control center which monitors the activities of Villa Somalia.
This attack however is coming at a time when there is an offensive against Al-Shabab in many regions in Somalia, in which the government and local forces, locally called ma’awisley, have taken over many areas from the extremist group.