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Gun battle rages after Mogadishu attack



Somalia’s security forces are battling gunmen in a building in Mogadishu, hours after a suicide car bomb attack on a busy street left at least 20 people dead, security sources say.

The attack
was launched late on Thursday by suspected al-Shabab militants in an area lined
with hotels, shops and restaurants.

The gunmen
then seized a nearby building and were surrounded.


Exchanges of
gunfire continued throughout the night in the capital.

Some 60
people have been injured and seven have died in the attacks on Maka al-Mukarama
road, a spokesman for the Aamin Ambulance service told the BBC.

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A number of
civilians have been rescued from the building, reports say.

There are
fears that the death toll will rise further.

“There
are still some armed men inside a building,” police officer Ibrahim Mohamed
was quoted as saying yesterday morning by the AFP news agency.

The
secretary-general of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Mohamed
Moalimuu was inside the Maka al-Mukarama hotel with a colleague when they heard
gunshots followed by a blast:

The Maka
al-Mukarama road is the busiest road in Mogadishu. It has been repeatedly
targeted by al-Shabab militants despite being one of the most heavily guarded
roads in the country.

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Hassan Haile,
a prominent UK-based Somali political analyst, told the BBC that the Islamist
militant group were especially drawn to the road.

“Al-Shabab
like attacking Maka al-Mukarama because it is in the heart of Somalia,” he
said.

He told the
BBC the Islamist militant group use bribes and threats to carry out their
attacks.

“They
either bribe with money or make it very clear that they know where the soldiers
live and who their families are, to reach where they want to reach,” Mr.
Haile said.

“There
is negligence from the government, the soldiers have no money and they don’t
get encouragement which makes these kinds of attacks possible.”

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The Islamist
group al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, was forced out of Mogadishu in
2011 but continues to mount regular attacks in the city.

The US has sharply increased its air strikes against the group since President Trump took power.

The former
deputy director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA)
says that al-Shabab has increased its attacks in Mogadishu as retaliation for
the airstrikes.

Abdisalam Guled was also concerned that this week’s withdrawal of Burundian troops from the African Union force in the city could further jeopardise security. -BBC

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