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Friday, July 10, 2015

Al Shabaab militants storm two hotels in Somalia's capital Mogadishu killing at least six civilians.



Al Shabaab militants have stormed two hotels in Somalia's capital Mogadishu killing at least six civilians, police said.

Four militants also died in heavy fighting.

Government security official Mohamed Guhad said the gunmen who attacked the Wehliya Hotel were Al Shabaab militants, adding that fighting continued in the nearby Siyaad hotel near the presidential palace and the well-guarded government district, where gunmen launched a simultaneous attack.

Al Shabaab have confirmed responsibility for the attacks.

Both hotels are fortified and popular with government workers, including politicians from the parliament nearby.

Al Shabaab insurgents have carried out repeated attacks in the area, and messages posted on websites close to the Al Qaeda-linked group said the Islamists had carried out the hotel raids.

Previous attacks have seen Al Shabaab blast their way into buildings using suicide bombers — sometimes inside cars packed with explosives — before commandos enter inside with rifles and grenades.

Attacks stepped up during Ramadan
The Islamic militants have stepped up their attacks during Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan, and Friday's raids came as people settled down to break their daylight fast.

Al Shabaab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed government which is propped up and protected by the 22,000-strong African Union (AU) force.

The Al Shabaab attacks seek to counter claims that they are close to defeat after losing territory in the face of an AU and Somali government offensive and regular US drone strikes against their leaders as well as due to defections.

The militants have also carried out a string of revenge strikes in neighbouring countries — including the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, which left at least 67 people dead, and the April massacre of close to 150 students in Garissa in Kenya's northeast.

On Tuesday, Al Shabaab gunmen killed 14 workers in Kenya's northern town of Mandera, close to the Somali border.

AFP/Reuters