Militants who killed 23 at Mogadishu hotel used intelligence service ID cards

Attackers who stormed a hotel in Mogadishu killing 23 people and wounding more than 30 on Saturday used identity cards from the country’s intelligence service to gain access to the building.

The five gunmen, from the Islamist al-Shabaab militant group, were dressed in intelligence service uniforms and did not draw suspicion as they entered the hotel in the centre of the Somali capital after a truck bomb demolished a well-defended front entrance.

The gunmen then held off security forces for more than 12 hours, and went room to room shooting guests. A senior regional minister and a mother with her three young children whom the attackers believed were his family were among the dead.

“They had ID cards which had clear information such as names, ranks and photos so no police officer could stop them,” said a senior intelligence officer, Col Ahmed Yare.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility on one of its websites 55 minutes after the initial bombing of the hotel. Sheikh Ali Mohamed, a religious cleric who survived the attack on the hotel saw the attackers kill the woman and children.

“They are ruthless. They are not Muslims. They have no mercy for human life,” he said.

The attacks come only two weeks after a massive bomb killed more than 350 people in Mogadishu, which has also been blamed on al-Shabaab, and raises serious questions for the Somali security establishment.

The use of National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) uniforms and cards will also raise concerns over possible sympathies for the insurgents among low-level members of the force.

Somalia’s government fired two of the country’s most senior security officials after the attack. A statement from the prime minister’s office on Sunday said Abdullahi Mohamed Ali, the NISA director general, and Gen Abdihakim Said, the head of police, were sacked following a cabinet vote.

Source The Guardian.Com