Al-Shabab kills anti-terrorism nemesis in Mogadishu attack

Suicide blast kills five people in hotel assault, including retired general Mohamed Nur Galal, who was former army commander and intelligence chief.
Monday 01/02/2021
People flee from the scene of the suicide blast near the Afrik hotel in Mogadishu, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. (AP)
People flee from the scene of the suicide blast near the Afrik hotel in Mogadishu, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. (AP)

MOGADISHU – At least five people, including a prominent former general, were killed in an hours-long Al-Shabab attack on a Mogadishu hotel, which ended around midnight on Sunday, Somali police said.

The al-Qaeda-linked extremists detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the Hotel Afrik at a busy junction near the airport before gunmen stormed the hotel, exchanging fire with security personnel.

Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe told a press conference that four attackers had also died.

“Among the dead are five civilians and the gunmen — three of them shot and another who detonated himself. The death toll can be higher and some of the wounded people may succumb.”

He said 10 people had been injured.

The information ministry said in a statement that one of the fatalities was a well-known retired general, Mohamed Nur Galal.

Al-Shabab claimed in a statement that the 80-year-old Galal was the main target of the attack, as he had been involved in the killing of their fighters and leaders.

“Galal was trained and committed for so long in the fight against sharia law, while using his knowledge and military intelligence experience to fight mujahidin,” the statement said.

Galal was the commander of Somalia’s armed forces during the 1977 Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia.

He served under President Mohamed Siad Barre as a minister and intelligence chief but led the first wave of the popular uprising against him which was to result in Siad Barre’s ouster in 1991 after a bloody civil war.

Barre’s ouster plunged Somalia into decades of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab said that Galal was responsible for the death of former Al-Shabab chief Adan Hashi Ayro — who was killed by a US missile attack in 2008.

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Ali Ato, who went to the hotel to recover the body of a colleague killed in the raid, described the scene.

“I have never witnessed such a level of devastation. We found the dead body of my colleague in front of the room where he stayed but I don’t know if they shot him or he was killed in a grenade explosion,” Ato said.

Al-Shabab has been waging a violent insurgency across the Horn of Africa country seeking to unseat the internationally backed government in Mogadishu.

They were driven out of Mogadishu by government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers in 2011.

But the group still controls swathes of territory outside the cities, from where they launch attacks against government and civilian targets. It has also carried out deadly attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Somalia was scheduled to hold indirect parliamentary and presidential elections before February 8, but the process has been derailed by political disagreements between the central government in Mogadishu and its federal states.