Somalia militant group Al-Shabaab says it laid a siege on a Mogadishu hotel because it was hosting a former military general they were targeting.
The group said on Tuesday that the primary motive of attacking Afrik Hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday was to kill Maj-Gen (rtd) Mohamed Nur Galaal, a veteran of the Somali army during Siad Barre’s days.
“The prime target of our assault mission on Afrik Hotel was to eliminate General Mohamed Nur Galaal,” the group said in a statement.
Around 5pm on Sunday, a huge explosion was heard across the city, followed by exchange of gunfire between three attackers and the hotel’s security personnel.
About 2am in the morning of Monday, the Spokesman of Somalia Police Force Sadik Adan Ali told the media that the operation to stop the attack and siege on the hotel was concluded. He said nine people died.
“The siege has been concluded and the nine persons we have witnessed as dead included the four attackers (suicide car bomber and three gunmen) and five civilians including retired General Galaal,” said Ali.
Al-Shabaab said its mission to attack the hotel had achieved its aim, having killed General Galaal.
“We have been looking for General Galaal for the past 13 years,” read the Al-Shabaab statement that appeared in websites like somalimemo.com.
They blamed him for contributing his experience on military operations and intelligence to the Somali National Army (SNA) to undermine the jihad (holy war) of Al-Shabaab.
“He (Galaal) was an important person who had contributed to the rebuilding of SNA,” the statement said.
The jihadist group said the retired general spent many years in the central regions of Somalia in helping the institution of Ahlu Sunna wal Jamea, a moderate Islamic group that bitterly fought Al-Shabaab, and later he assisted in the formation of Galmudug State of Somalia, one of the five Federal Member States of Somalia.
“The general greatly dedicated his time and efforts in the state-building of Galmudug State of Somalia,” the statement said.
Later, various institutions in Mogadishu indicated that the death toll in Afrik Hotel’s attack on Sunday/Monday had risen to 15, including a couple that was spending their honeymoon in the hotel.
General Galaal's body was taken to Masjid Isbahaysiga (Islamic Cooperation Mosque) on Monday at noon in the capital whereby Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, ministers, legislators and other citizens participated in the pre-burial prayers.
The general’s body was later on Monday flown to Guri’el town, about 370 km north of Mogadishu, in Galgadud region, and buried.
At the end of their statement, the jihadists accused Gen Galaal of being responsible for the killing of Al-Shabaab co-founder Aden Hashi Farah Aero alongside other militants allegedly through American airstrikes on May 1, 2008 in Dusamareb town, Galgadud region, in Central Somalia.