In a daring move, Somalia’s new government has appointed a former al-Shabab militant, who was once involved in fighting against the authorities into the cabinet, but the weekend’s deadly hotel siege is a reminder of the tough task for those in power.
Africa Today News, New York recalls that back in May when Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office, he had declared that a top priority was bringing an end to the country’s 15-year Islamist insurgency.
Three months down the line, al-Shabab staged one of its most spectacular ever attacks, storming a hotel a short drive away from the presidential palace in the capital, Mogadishu.
They held it for 30 hours. Officials said more than 20 people died in the siege of the Hayat and 117 were injured.
No fewer than a month earlier, the group went on to mount an unprecedented invasion of neighbouring Ethiopia.
It was as if they were cocking a snook at the new president.
International diplomats have described the complex, coordinated attack as a “gamechanger” that took at least 18 months to plan and involved an estimated 1,200 fighters.
The then-commander of US Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, said the militants penetrated 150km (93 miles) inside Ethiopia.
One reason why the group was able to stage this brazen assault was the increase in conflict in Ethiopia after years of general stability and growth.
‘Shortly after civil war erupted in the northern Tigray region in November 2020, a member of al-Shabab called me up’ he said.
‘We are simply crossing our arms and enjoying the spectacle of Ethiopia destroying itself,’ he gloated. ‘The time to strike our primary enemy is finally approaching.’
Africa Today News, New York reports that Ethiopia is one of the countries in the region which has troops in Somalia supporting the government.