Death toll from Somalia hotel attack rises to 39

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A Somali security officer looks toward the scene of twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. (AFP)
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A Somali soldier uses his mobile phone at the scene of twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. (AFP)
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The scene following twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. (AFP)
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The scene following twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. (AFP)
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Somali security officers run from the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. (Reuters)
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Somali security officers run from the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. (Reuters)
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Smoke billows from the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2018
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Death toll from Somalia hotel attack rises to 39

  • Suicide attackers set off 4 bombs at a hotel near the headquarters of Somalia’s Criminal Investigations Department
  • Militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU: Suicide attackers set off two car bombs at a hotel in Mogadishu on Friday, killing at least 39 people, police said.

Previous reports had indicated 29 fatalities from the attack, but police confirmed a total of 39 civilians died with 40 others injured.


The militant extremist group Al-Shabab, linked to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi, which is near the headquarters of Somalia’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
Hotel guards and CID officers opened fire after the blasts, police added. Then, about 20 minutes later, a third explosion from a bomb placed in a three-wheeled “tuk-tuk” vehicle near the hotel hit the busy street, witnesses said.
Some of the victims were burned beyond recognition when one car bomb exploded next to a minibus, said a police official.

The scene following twin car bombs that exploded within moments of each other in the Somali capital Mogadishu on November 9, 2018. (AFP)

“Four militants who attempted to enter the hotel were shot dead by our police and the hotel guards,” police captain Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters.
“Two other militants were suicide car bombers who were blown up by their car bombs. The third car was remotely detonated. So in total 28 people died, including the six militants.”
Abdifatah Abdirashid, who took over the Sahafi from his father after he was killed in a militant attack in 2015, was among those who died in Friday’s attack, said Mohamed Abdiqani, a witness at the hotel.
“The militants who entered the hotel compound faced heavy gunfire from the hotel guards. Abdifatah Abdirashid, the hotel owner, and three of his bodyguards died,” Abdiqani said.
“Although they failed to access the hotel, the blasts outside the hotel killed many people,” the police official said.
“The street was crowded with people and cars, bodies were everywhere,” said Hussein Nur, a shopkeeper who suffered light shrapnel injuries on his right hand. “Gunfire killed several people, too.”
A Reuters photographer at the scene saw 20 bodies of civilians and burnt-out minibuses, motorbikes and cars.

Somali security officers run from the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. (Reuters)

Abdiasisi Abu Musab, Al-Shabab’s spokesman for military operations, said the group had singled out the Sahafi for attack because of its association with the government the extremists want to overthrow.
“We targeted it because it acts as government base. Government officials and security forces are always in the hotel,” he told Reuters.
Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in the early 1990s.

 

* With Reuters and AP.


Pakistani who taught ‘American Taliban’ hails his release

Updated 18 min 30 sec ago
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Pakistani who taught ‘American Taliban’ hails his release

  • John Walker Lindh symbolized betrayal for the US when he was captured, bearded and disheveled, while fighting for the Taliban in 2001
  • He was one of hundreds of Taliban fighters captured by Northern Alliance forces on November 25, 2001

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani religious teacher who spent six months with “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh has hailed his release, describing him as a “good person” who became upset over the situation in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine.
Lindh symbolized betrayal for the US when he was captured, bearded and disheveled, while fighting for the Taliban in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif in 2001.
His release from prison on Thursday — three years before the end of his 20-year sentence — has re-awakened memories of the September 11 attacks and underscored the tragedy of the US invasion of Afghanistan, where civilians are paying a deadly price as the war grinds on.
President Donald Trump said he was upset about the release, but government lawyers had told him there was no legal way to keep him in prison.
“We’ll be watching him and watching him closely,” Trump told reporters.
But Mohammad Iltimas, who taught Lindh for six months at a Muslim school near the Afghan border in Pakistan’s northwest, said he was happy to hear of the decision to release him.
“He was such a pure person, such a positive-thinking man,” Iltimas told AFP.
Iltimas said Lindh came to his school — the Madrassa Arabia Hussania, outside the city of Bannu — in December 2000, and stayed until May or April of the next year.
“He wanted to memorize the Qur’an,” he said, describing how Lindh could often be seen listening to Qur’anic verses on a tape recorder or learning Pashto.
“He was such a good student, pious and focused on his studies, I never saw him sitting idle. He was not interested in sports. He was such a serious and committed person to his cause.”
Lindh was “upset over the situation in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine,” said Iltimas.
At the time, the Taliban regime which controlled most of Afghanistan was engaged in a bloody fight with the rebellious Northern Alliance.
Soon the madrassa student enlisted in the Taliban’s ranks.
After the United States intervened in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Lindh was one of hundreds of Taliban fighters captured by Northern Alliance forces on November 25.
He revealed his American identity to two CIA officers in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
One of them, Johnny Micheal Spann, was killed in a prisoner revolt hours after he interrogated Lindh, making him the first American killed in post-9/11 conflict in Afghanistan.
Mazar residents who remembered Lindh described to AFP their shock on hearing that an American had been captured fighting for the Islamist militants.
“People were asking how is that possible,” recalled 40-year-old resident Khayber Ibrahimi.
“I think he must have been too brave or too stupid to have gone with the Taliban,” he told AFP.
In July 2002 plea deal, Lindh admitted charges of illegally aiding the Taliban and carrying weapons and explosives.
By most accounts, he clung firmly to his faith throughout his imprisonment.
An internal 2017 report from the US National Counterterrorism Center, obtained by the Foreign Policy website, said that Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”
The claim was not supported by public evidence.
Iltimas told AFP that Lindh had written him from prison, although AFP was unable to immediately verify the claim.
When Lindh left for Afghanistan, Iltimas said, he left some of his possessions behind at the madrassa, claiming he would return.
“I still have that stuff — his briefcase, books, shoes, clothes, notebooks,” Iltimas told AFP.
“People at the time used to ask me if I had changed him into a jihadi,” he said.
“I always replied to them that I turned him to education, and changed him as a scholar.”
Now 38, Lindh will settle in Virginia under strict probation terms that limit his ability to go online or contact any other Islamists.
In Afghanistan, where he was captured, the Taliban are once again resurgent, Afghan civilians desperate for peace, and the US eager to escape what has become the longest war in its history.