- The Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen terrorist organization, issued a statement claiming its cells had orchestrated a complex Inghimasi attack targeting the popular As-Asey Hotel, in Kismayu city the capital of Jubaland prefecture and killed over 32 persons.
- The group claimed it repelled 4 attempts to by elite government forces to storm the hotel and decommission the attackers. The 4 member cell assaulted the hotel 1st by detonating a suicide borne vehicular explosive device (SVBIED) at the entrance. 4 militants stormed the hotel compound firing assault rifles at the guests and throughout the night engaged in violent killing of unarmed civilians. The attack ended 0830Hrs EAT, Saturday Morning in East Africa.
- In the hotel were politicians, journalists, businessmen, aid workers, and foreign nationals, a quite unique clientele. A Federal Government Presidential candidate Mohamed Ismael Shakur was killed. A Popular Canadian-Somali journalist identified as Hodan Naleyeh who died alongside her husband was mourned all night. 3 Kenyans were killed besides a Canadian, British, 2 Americans, and 3 Tanzanians. 2 Chinese were wounded but intelligence sources confirm they are in stable condition. A Somali soldier also died in the attack while 4 of his colleagues were injured.
The siege in Kismayu is over and the terror group has claimed and justified the attack by citing its religiously stoic precepts. All attackers are dead, as intended in their fantasy about express travel to jannah (strategic logic of suicide terrorism) as inghimasi. Approximately 32 people or more are dead so far, 57 are mortally wounded. The attack is an interesting event though. Orchestrated quite successfully during a political season contenders are exploiting to win the high stakes upcoming Federal presidential elections. It also happened during a time when Jubaland Federal leadership is at loggerheads with the Federal Government of Somalia. The political upheaval is largely blamed on Prime Minister Hassan Khaire who President Ahmed Madobe and other regional Federal States accuse of political meddling and subversion. Another notable is the time the attack was orchestrated. The attack was carried out at 1830Hrs EAT, it was dusk, a blackswan in Kismayu indeed. The most interesting part though, is the high number of unique guests at As-Asey Hotel besides their nationalities and how the group was able to target them at once.
That the attack was orchestrated at dusk targeting guests of various nationalities, indicates it was conducted after a tip off by a local cell or one embedded within the hotel. The local cell surveilled the target and found the guest list unique enough to fit a perfect target profile. The inghimasi team and the SVBIED was within the city, probably in a safe-house not far away from the target, as is the norm. The attack demonstrates the terror group is capable of conducting attacks anywhere in Somalia. It also confirms the terror group’s intent to start specific targeting of foreign nationals in Somalia as countries prematurely rush to open embassies in Mogadishu.
There is little information about the terror cells behind the attack. Picture evidence showed a dead member, killed by the security forces. He was wearing a desert military uniform. The hotel was also extremely damaged, a confirmation of extreme counter measures. Completely damaged windows and walls after consistent rapid heavy gunfire has left a ruin. The after math of the SVBIED depicts a medium-scale explosion, of course to ensure the assault team doesn’t suffer injuries as they breach the facility. The cell used a Toyota Surf SUV. Intelligence further confirms the cell visited the hotel recently in a final casing mission.
Political Warfare by Regime Apologists
There’s no doubt the attack bears a political signature. Apart from usual terrorist banter about purpose, this attack was politically motivated. Across the Somali online community, there was backlash, a natural psychological reaction. Interestingly there was an attempt by specific Somali social media users openly sympathetic to the FGS to politicize the attack. The users attempted to blame Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe on the attack. That is equivalent to directly linking him to the Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen terrorist organization.
Such conspiracies theories and sentiments are often sponsored by members of the executive as part of political warfare. They can be attributed to the Hassan Khaire political wing of FGS. Shabaab’s Amniyaat wing like any other intelligence outfit exploits circumstances to achieve specific objectives. With an open channel between them and Farmaajo – Khaire administration, the group did exactly what Khaire would have wished them to do. The Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Khaire has been adversely mentioned in intelligence reports warning of his efforts to buy and negotiate terms with sections of the terror group leadership. He may as well exploit these open channels to settle political scores with Jubaland administration or maybe the terror group is exploiting those rifts successfully.
The attack in Kismayu is a watershed event. It is far more serious than reported. It has had extremely debilitating psychological and political ramifications. It has demonstrated that the group is now able to carry out attacks anywhere in Somalia. It also demonstrates how the group can exploit political weather to achieve social-political objectives. Foreign nationals in Somalia should be worried. Countries opening embassies and sending staffers to the country should be on the lookout. The trend will remain the same, horrendous surprise attacks targeting unique targets with global signatures as Al-Qaeda shifts focus to Talibanizing Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen terrorist organization.
By David Goldman