In his first message to the nation since the militants launched a 30-hour hotel siege in Mogadishu, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Tuesday declared “an all-out war” to remove Al-Shabaab.
Beginning on Friday night, the attack was the largest to hit Somalia’s capital since Mohamud assumed office in June. It highlighted the difficulty of trying to put an end to the Al-Qaeda-linked group’s 15-year insurgency.
According to the Norwegian government, at least 21 people were killed and 117 others were injured in the gun and bomb attack on the well-known Hayat Hotel.
Mohamud added, “I know that you lose decent individuals in every attack carried out by the terrorists, and I know that the Somali people are tired up with the unending condolences and grief.”
As such, he urged citizens to “be prepared for an all-out war against the heartless (people) who are antagonistic to our peace” in a statement issued by the presidency.
On Tuesday, Mohamud gathered the country’s defense commanders, prime minister, interior minister, and foreign minister for a meeting of the national security committee.
The administration has made it a top priority to “weaken the terrorists who destroy our people until all the regions they control are liberated,” he stated, without providing details.
Scores of people, including government officials, were inside the Hayat when a suicide bomber detonated a large explosive, allowing highly armed gunmen to storm the building.
Witnesses reported hearing a second blast a few minutes later as they were helping the injured.
By Saturday night, the building had been heavily damaged by security forces’ bombardment, ending the siege.
After being elected in May after a lengthy political crisis, Mohamud stated last month that ending the insurgency would take more than a military response, but that his administration would engage with Al-Shabaab only when the time was appropriate.
Since Mohamud became office, the predominantly Muslim country has been the target of multiple attacks by the group.
Last month, it also raided a border military base in neighboring Ethiopia.
An African Union (AU) force successfully expelled Islamist extremists, who advocate a severe version of sharia or Islamic law, from Mogadishu in 2011.
However, they continue to exercise control over large areas of land and carry out lethal strikes, which frequently target civilian establishments in addition to military and political targets.