(New York, N.Y.) – Last weekend, militants attacked the Afrik Hotel in Mogadishu, a well-known hub for Somali politicians and law enforcement officials. The extremist group al-Shabaab—which is linked to al-Qaeda—claimed responsibility for the attack, which left at least nine dead and more than 15 others injured. The incident comes less than two weeks before the nation’s parliamentary and presidential elections which are expected to be held on February 8, and only a couple of weeks after the U.S. withdrew nearly 700 troops from Somalia.
This latest attack, which included a suicide car bombing and an exchange of gunfire between al-Shabaab militants and Somali security forces, follows a landmine explosion that occurred on January 19 in Mogadishu. In January 2021 alone, al-Shabaab has carried out at least eight bombings, intensifying international concerns that the group is seeking to take advantage of the security vacuum that exists in the absence of U.S. troops.
Al-Shabaab has been waging a violent insurgency across Somalia, seeking to unseat the internationally backed government in Mogadishu. The group has a history of ramping up the intensity of its attacks in an effort to jeopardize the safety of elections. In December 2016, a suicide truck bomber drove into Somalia’s largest port in Mogadishu and detonated his explosives, killing 29 people and wounding 48 more. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it sought to disrupt the country’s parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of that month. Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed the targets of the attack were police officers stationed at the port “because [the officers] had been trained to provide security at [the] so-called elections.” Previously, al-Shabaab has accused presidential and parliamentary candidates in Somalia of being puppets of Western powers.
To read CEP’s Somalia resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s Al-Shabaab resource, please click here.