, MOGADISHU, Aug 24 – Two extremist insurgents disguised as government soldiers went on a shooting rampage in a Mogadishu hotel Tuesday, killing 30 people, including six MPS, before blowing themselves up.
The brazen attack by the Al Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabaab just a stone\’s throw from the presidential palace marked a new escalation on the second day of clashes that had already left 29 civilians dead across the war-ravaged Somali capital.
"Thirty people died in this ambush. Six of them are members of the Somali parliament and four are Somali government civil servants," Deputy Prime Minister Abdirahman Haji Adan Ibbi told reporters.
"The 20 others are innocent civilians who died in this horrible incident."
An AFP reporter who managed to enter the Hotel Mona compound said the doors of every single room and even the toilets had been smashed open by the two attackers.
Officials visiting the scene of the carnage held their noses because of the stench of burned flesh and smoke.
Witnesses and hotel staff said the attackers were wearing government security uniforms and shot dead security guards at the gate to the compound as they rushed into the three-storey building.
"They rained gunfire on everybody. Nobody stood a chance. I was lucky because they aimed at me but I jumped out of the window and survived," hotel employee Adan Mohamed told AFP.
"People were screaming, there was total panic. When they decided they had finished killing everybody, they climbed to the balcony and started opening fire on government forces outside the hotel," he added.
One government soldier who took part in the fighting and refused to give his name said one of the bombers detonated his suicide vest on the balcony when he saw they were surrounded.
"These two guys were on the balcony, close together, shouting \’Allahu Akbar\’ (God is greatest). It seems one of them failed to detonate his vest but the other did and that probably killed both of them," he said.
"One of them was blown to pieces, only the head remains. The other one\’s body is completely burned, he is all black," the soldier added.
Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage claimed responsibility for the attack during a phone press conference.
"Our commando units carried out this attack," he said.
The bloodbath at Hotel Mona, which lies in the small area of Mogadishu firmly under government control and provides accommodation for dozens of MPs and other officials, came on the second day of a deadly battle in the city.
The government condemned the attack.
"They have no motive other than to terrorise the Somali people. This is a deplorable act in this holy month of Ramadan. It shows their brutality and lack of respect for humanity," Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow said in a statement.
The Al Shabab on Monday launched a major offensive against government army barracks in several Mogadishu districts, sparking clashes that left at least 29 civilians dead, according to Ali Muse, head of ambulance services.
"This operation is meant to eliminate the invading Christians and their apostate government in Somalia. The fighting will continue and, God willing, the mujahideen will prevail," Rage said Monday as the offensive was launched.
The African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has deployed more than 6,000 troops in Mogadishu to protect the TFG and support its anti-insurgency operations, also condemned the Mona Hotel suicide attack.
"It is unfortunate that those opposed to the peace process continue to kill innocent civilians even during the fasting month of Ramadan which is one of the key pillars of the Islamic faith which they claim to profess," it said.
The Shebab claimed responsibility for multiple suicide attacks in Kampala on July 11 that killed at least 76 people.
They said the blasts were in retaliation for Uganda\’s leading role in AMISOM, which is effectively their last impediment to seizing control of the presidency.
Uganda, hosting an African Union summit days later, responded by vowing to deploy more troops and mustering continental support for AMISOM.