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Militants disguised in Army uniforms attacked a hotel in Somalia's capital on Tuesday, killing at least 31 people including Somali legislators.
Somalia's government has blamed Al Shabab for today's attack on the seaside Muna hotel. The group has fought the government since 2007 and now controls large parts of the country, which has not had a functioning government for 20 years.
The Associated Press reports that at least 32 people were killed Tuesday, but also quoted a military spokesman as saying the toll was still unclear. The New York Times reports 33 dead, including six lawmakers. Xinhua reports 10 lawmakers among the dead.
The attacks came after more Ugandan troops arrived in the capital last week to reinforce beleaguered government troops, and Al Shabab responded with a fresh declaration of war, Al Jazeera reported:
Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage, Al Shabab's spokesman, had said on Monday that 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.
At least 40 people were reportedly killed and more than 100 injured in the violence that followed, medics and witnesses said.
There was an overnight lull before the fighting resumed on Tuesday morning.
The US government says Al Shabab has links with Al Qaeda and worries Somalia could become a haven for terrorists planning attacks on Western interests. One Al Shabab leader pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in a 2009 video, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
Al Shabab claimed responsibility for a July 11 terrorist attack on a restaurant and a pub in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 76 people who had gathered to watch the World Cup on TV. Al Shabab has promised more attacks in Uganda and Burundi unless those countries withdraw their troops from Somalia, where they are helping prop up the fragile government.
Some analysts have said Al Shabab is on the decline amid infighting between Islamist groups. In a report in May, the International Crisis Group said that while it was far from a "spent force," Al Shabab was losing public support.
Al Shabaab’s military troubles have been compounded by the steady erosion of its popularity and credibility. The attempt to forcefully homogenise Islam and zealously enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia, as well as the general climate of fear and claustrophobia fostered by an authoritarian administrative style, has deeply alienated large segments of society, even in areas once regarded as solid insurgent territory.
Adding to the public disquiet has been the movement’s increasing radicalisation and the internal coup that has consolidated the influence of extremists allied to foreign jihadis.
From a security perspective, it seems the attack is intended to show that there are very few places in Mogadishu that Al Shabaab cannot target. Disguising themselves as government soldiers obviously helped the assailants evade the hotel's security, but the location of the attack in the most secure part of Mogadishu will do little for confidence in the TFG's [transitional government's] ability to create a stable environment. Attacks near the palace have been a long-held strategy for al-Shabaab.