Salafi-Jihadi Global Tracker
The Salafi-Jihadi Global Tracker provides analysis and assessments of major developments related to the Salafi-jihadi movement.
Salafi-Jihadi Global Tracker: Al Shabaab Besieges Hotel Near Somali Presidential Complex
[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader’s awareness.]
Key Takeaway: Al Shabaab besieged a hotel within a mile of Somalia’s presidential palace on November 27. The siege is the latest in a series of high-profile suicide attacks across Somalia in response to an ongoing government-led campaign to recapture al Shabaab positions in central Somalia.
Al Shabaab besieged the Villa Somalia presidential complex on November 27. At least one suicide bomber and five more militants breached and laid siege to the Villa Rose hotel, which government officials frequent. The militants killed at least eight civilians and one police officer Security forces ended the siege on November 28 after 20 hours.
The Villa Rose attack is the latest in a string of al Shabaab suicide operations across Somalia since August. Al Shabaab carried out its deadliest attack since 2017 on October 29, killing over 100 people in a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack targeting an education ministry building in Mogadishu. The Villa Rose attack is the third hotel suicide siege in southern Somalia since August, following raids in Mogadishu and Kismayo that killed 32 people in total. The group has also carried out several VBIED attacks in central Somalia over the same period.
The Mogadishu attacks demonstrate that al Shabaab retains key capabilities in and around the Somali capital. The August 19 hotel siege and October 29 bombing and occurred two miles west of Villa Somalia in the Kilometer 4 (KM4) area. Attackers must bypass multiple security checkpoints to strike near KM4 and Villa Somalia, indicating shortcomings in the existing security measures in Mogadishu and likely al Shabaab infiltration of security organizations. The attacks also indicate that the group maintains strong support zones in Mogadishu’s outskirts despite government efforts* to disrupt* these staging zones in September and November 2022.
Figure 1. Al Shabaab Suicide Attacks in Somalia Since August 2022
Source: Liam Karr.
Al Shabaab will likely continue to conduct suicide attacks targeting civilians in response to federal forces and local militias’ offensive against its positions in central Somalia. Somali National Army (SNA) units and anti–al Shabaab clan militias have since August ousted al Shabaab from dozens of villages in central Somalia, including several* al Shabaab strongholds* that the group has held for years. The Somali prime minister claimed on November 23 that these operations have killed more than 600 militants and injured 1,200 others. Al Shabaab has framed the Villa Rose siege and its other suicide attacks as retaliation for this counterterrorism offensive. Al Shabaab will likely continue high-profile attacks to undermine political will and popular support for continuing the offensive.
 SITE Intelligence Group, “UPDATED: Shabaab Executes Suicide Raid at Presidential Palace Compound in Somali Capital, Storms Villa Rose Hotel,” November 28, 2022, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; SITE Intelligence Group, “Justifying Twin Suicide Bombings at Somali Education Ministry, Shabaab Alleges Enemy Recruiting Students into Military,” October 30, 2022, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; and SITE Intelligence Group, “At the End of Hayat Hotel Raid, Shabaab Boasts 170 Casualties in Longest Such Hotel Attack Waged by Fighters,” August 21, 2022, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.