By ABDULKADIR KHALIF
Wednesday December 12, 2018
A section of Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue in Mogadishu. ABDULKADIR KHALIF | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue easily passes for the stretch in Mogadishu that has absorbed the most violence unleashed by the Al-Shabaab jihadists in the past decade.
On November 9, a triple car explosion, targeting Sahafi Hotel, killed 53 people. The hotel is situated a short distance from the K4 roundabout that links several roads including Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue and the one leading to the airport.
The attack was devastating on the hotel and its its entire neighbourhood, coming at around 5pm (local time) when traffic, both vehicular and human, was almost at its heaviest.
It was the second time Sahafi Hotel fell victim to car bombs, coupled with attack by gunmen.
The first assault involving dual car explosions and gun battle between attackers and security guards occurred in November 2015. The victims included the owner of the hotel, Mr Abdirashid Shire Liquate, and his son Abdi Fatah Liquate who were both killed, causing a double tragedy to the business family.
On the other side of Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue’s K4 roundabout lies Nasa Hablod Hotel. Like Sahafi, it has suffered a combination of car bombs and assault by militants loyal to the jihadist group.
The name Nasa Hablood (women’s breasts), derives from Twin Mountains that stand outside Hargeisa city, the current capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, about 1,500km northwest of Mogadishu. The hotel was built a few years after the Somali regions respectively gained independence from Italy and Britain in 1960.
Another Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue hotel, Ambassador, was bombed in June 2016. The current chairman of the Somalia Senate, Mr Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, was among those who narrowly escaped the attack. Two of his fellow MPs fell victims of the impact of the car bomb and the subsequent gunfire.
Down the avenue, towards the city centre, several other high profile accommodation facilities have suffered similar violent fates.
Maka-al-Mukarrama Hotel, whose name derives from the avenue, has suffered at least three attacks. Being a location highly frequented by influential people including diplomats and the returning diaspora, many of them have either died or suffered injuries from the organised violence.
Like Maka-al-Mukarrama, Weheliye Hotel that was built in the 1980s, has experienced similar attacks with cars packed with explosive materials blasting its front side and causing harm to many.
Weheliye Hotel's Lumumba Emporium and Veritas Pharmacy, are popular with many high profile customers. Numerous other small business stand around the hotel, hence the devastating effect of every attack.
Investors, both local and foreign, consider the Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue a worthy location.
Aroma Café that lies a short distance from Weheliye Hotel, has had its fair share of the explosions that have rocked Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue. In October 2014, the café was devastated by an explosion from a car bomb placed right in front of it, that caused many deaths and injuries to many others.
Dayah Hotel, on the one side of Aroma Café was attacked in January 2017. Security guards, customers, neighbours, motorists and pedestrians on Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue all fell victims. There was a massive damage to properties.
SYL and Siyad hotels, located opposite the main entrance to Villa Somalia, the state house in the capital, have not been spared either by the multiple blasts. Whereas one would have expected the proximity to the presidential palace to be a shield, it actually makes them more vulnerable as they are patronised by the people the jihadists would like to harm.
With every attack, comes media attention, especially because of the proximity to Villa Somalia, highlighting the jihadists’ possible ability to penetrate the most protected zone in Mogadishu.
Both SYL and Siyad hotels have been repaired many times and parts of them still bear the scars.
At the second main entrance to Villa Somalia, stands the headquarter of the Somali Women Association (SWA), facing the National Theatre. Both are landmarks at the end of Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue and attacks have occurred in or around them.
The most serious was a series of explosions that targeted The Village, a popular eatery within the perimeter of the SWA building. It is a privately-owned business, but was targeted because it was established by a Somali diaspora, Mr Ahmed Jama, who dared to invest in the largely violent city.
Mr Jama repeatedly stated that he would not be scared by any attacks. “No matter how hostile attacks against The Village are, I will not withdraw my desire to initiate business in Mogadishu,” Mr Jama told the media, following repeated attacks on The Village.
He maintains his eateries in various Mogadishu locations, in defiance of threats from the extremists.
Mother of five
The explosions have also hit many other lodging facilities near Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue. They included The Central Hotel, a short distance from the Hawa Tako Monument. The attack that combined a car explosion and a suicide bomber, killed many and wounded scores of others, including the hitherto Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Mohamed Omar Arte.
Strangely enough, the suicide bomber that hit the hotel was said to be a mother of five and a member of the Somali diaspora in the Netherlands. Others who participated in the suicide missions included Somali jihadists from the US and Germany.
Wadnaha, Soddonka and Warshadaha are the other major traffic ways in Mogadishu, but the Al-Shabaab attacks on them pale into oblivion compared to those that have targeted Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue.
The bombing of the roads linking to Maka-al-Mukarrama Avenue reached a climax on October 14 last year when a lorry packed with explosives struck the Zoppe junction, killing at least 587 people and affecting more than 1,000 others, not to mention the massive damage to properties. A monument has since been erected in remembrance of the the calamity.