Somali militants attacked a hotel near the country's presidential palace on Monday, killing 32 people, including six members of the national Parliament. The attackers, which included two suicide bombers, are thought to be from the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, which just hours earlier had promised a new campaign of violence. In July, al-Shabaab launched their first terror attacks outside of Somalia, killing 74 civilians in Uganda and raising global concerns about the group's reach and violence. Here is what journalists and analysts are saying about the most recent attacks.
- Escalating War Between Government, Terrorists Voice of America's Alisha Ryu writes, "Three years of fighting between peacekeepers and Islamist insurgents have caused thousands of civilian deaths and prompted hundreds of thousands of others to flee Mogadishu. Despite repeated demands by al-Shabab to withdraw the peacekeeping force, Uganda is believed to have sent hundreds of reinforcements to the Somali capital in recent days."
- Shabaab Takes the Fight to the Government The Associated Press's Mohamed Olad Hassan and Malkhadir Muhumed report, "While Mogadishu has a small, government-controlled zone near the seaside airport, al-Shabab operatives frequently infiltrate the area, and the attack is only the latest proof that al-Shabab has molded itself into a full-fledged insurgent force capable of daring, complex assaults. ... Somalia has not had an effective government for 19 years. Islamic insurgents led by al-Shabab have been trying to topple the government from Mogadishu since January 2007."
- Response to New African Union Peacekeepers Al Jazeera explains, "Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage, al-Shabab's spokesman, said fighters were starting a new war against 'invaders', an apparent reference to the 6,000 African Union troops deployed in the country to support government forces. ... The fighting came days after hundreds of Ugandan troops began arriving in the Somali capital to strengthen the current AU peacekeeping force. 'As long as these [AU] forces are in Mogadishu, I think it will be unlikely for al-Shabab to take over [the city]. But they can inflict huge damage,' Dr Afyare Abdi Elmi, a professor of International Affairs at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera."
- Is This a New Offensive Campaign? The Christian Science Monitor's Mike Pflanz and Scott Bauldauf, both highly respected sources on Somalia, say the attack "has raised concern that Somalia's Al Shabab militants - an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group - are launching a new offensive against the country's weak, Western-funded government. ... 'Before today's hotel bombing, you could easily say that Al Shabab was just flexing its muscles as a warning to new troop-contributing nations not to get involved," said a European diplomat in Nairobi, Kenya who tracks security developments in Somalia. "But with the suicide bombing - which would have taken time to plan - we're not so sure. It could be that they really are ready to ramp this up."
- ...Or Just a Desperate Attempt at Intimidation Planz and Bauldauf explore the possibility that the attack is not the beginning of a serious campaign against the government. "Al Shabab may be resorting to terrorist attacks such as this one because it is incapable of launching an offensive that would completely dislodge Somalia's transitional government, says E.J. Hogendoorn, head of the Horn of Africa program at the International Crisis Group's office in Nairobi. ... Security responsiblity for areas under the control of Somalia's weak transitional government is shared by government forces and AMISOM peacekeepers, with AMISOM guarding high profile locations such as the presidential palace, the airport, and seaport, security experts say. But the hotel where the parliamentarians were staying may have relied on the poorly trained government soldiers, many of whom receive their salaries sporadically."