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Mogadishu attacks contradict Obama

July 26, 2015

A Somali parliamentarian has been assassinated and a hotel bombed, hours after US President Barack Obama had said militants in Somalia had been "weakened." The militia al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.

Somalia Mogadischu Sicherheitskräfte
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Abdiwahab

A car bomb detonated in front of the gate of the Jazeera Palace hotel in Mogadishu leaving at least six people dead.

The hotel was known for housing the UN, the African Union's forces in Somalia (AMISOM) and the diplomatic missions of China, Qatar and the UAE.

"It is a response to attacks and helicopter bombing against al-Shabab by AMISOM and the Somali government," the militant group's spokesperson Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters news agency, referring to the African Union's forces in Somalia (AMISOM).

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the "heinous terrorist attack."

However, this is not the first time the Jazeera Palace hotel has been targeted. In 2012, a suicide bomber attacked the hotel while President Mohamud was inside.

Parliamentarian assassinated

Confirmation also emerged on Sunday that lawmaker Abdullahi Huseen Mohamud, two guards and a driver were shot dead in Mogadishu on Saturday, shortly after Obama had claimed during a visit to Kenya that Shabab's network in East Africa had been "weakened."

In a statement carried by the news agency AFP on Sunday, Shabab said its fighters had "killed a member of the parliament and his guards."

Gunmen shot at Huseen Mohamud's car as he traveled through a southern district of Mogadishu, where Somalia's internationally recognized government is backed by the African Union force AMISOM.

Kenia Nairobi Gedenken Westgate 2014
Nairobi's 2013 Westgate mall attack claimed 67 livesImage: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

A witness said all the occupants were killed. The militants fled.

Pushed back but still active

Since 2007, AMISOM and Somali troops have evicted Shabab across much of Somalia's south. US drones have also killed senior Shabab commanders.

Under pressure, Shabab hit back in neighboring Kenya by killing several hundred people at a Nairobi shopping center in 2013 and at a rural university in April this year.

Somali and UN officials say that the militia has split, moving southwards into the Jubba Valley region and northward into the Galgala hills, part of Somalia's semiautonomous Puntland region.

Barack Obama in Kenia mit Präsident Uhuru Kenyatta bei gemeinsamer Konferenz in Nairobi
Obama (L) with Kenya's President KenyattaImage: Reuters/J. Ernst

Shabab's control 'decreased'

During a press conference in Nairobi Saturday, Obama said international powers had been able to "decrease" Shabab's control within Somalia, but conceded that the militia could "still do damage."

US Secretary of State John Kerry made a three-hour visit to Mogadishu in May but did not venture beyond its tightly secured airport.

Kerry held talks with diverse Somali leaders and told President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud that he hoped next time he would be able to "just walk downtown."

Lawmakers frequently targeted

Shabab has frequently targeted lawmakers. Abdulahi Qayad Barre was shot dead in February as he made his way to parliament to vote.

At least five members of parliament were killed in 2014. Diverse aid organizations have also been targeted in recent years.

Late last month, diplomats assigned to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates survived a suicide bomb attack that killed at least six bystanders, including four civilians.

On Saturday, helicopters reported to be from Ethiopia targeted Shabab fighters in Somalia's southern Bay region.

Residents quoted by AFP said a truck carrying civilians fleeing the fighting was blown up, killing six civilians, including two children.

Somalia is scheduled to vote on a new constitution next year, ahead of elections.

ls,ipj/tj (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)