Hotel Security: Lessons From Terrorist Attacks in Africa

Since 2015, foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Qa’ida affiliates and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have directed and inspired attacks against the hotel industry in Africa, with the goal of depleting emergency responder resources and maximizing casualties. Hotels are often open to the public and host tourists, government officials, and entrepreneurs, as well as provide a conducive environment for meetings, conferences, and other special events. While the United States and Africa are not comparable in terms of law enforcement and emergency response capabilities, an NJOHSP review of recent hotel attacks in Africa reveals several preparedness best practices:

  • Training emergency responders and hotel staff, as well as developing coordinated preparedness plans, would lead to faster response times during an attack. In February 2015, operatives affiliated with ISIS attacked a hotel in Tripoli; however trained hotel security staff evacuated guests through emergency exits, limiting the number of casualties. This allowed security forces leeway in entering the building and actively seeking out attackers, who had spread throughout the building.
  • Educating hotel staff on suspicious activity reporting increases opportunities to disrupt terrorist plots against governmental officials or visiting dignitaries. In June 2015, a lone gunman disguised as a tourist attacked a hotel in Tunisia, killing 38. Following the attack—later claimed by ISIS—Tunisian President called for citizens to report suspicious activity and in November 2015, Tunisian security forces arrested 17 Islamic militants after a similar attack was thwarted.
  • Vetting staff with comprehensive background checks would alleviate the likelihood of insider threats. In May 2015, Luul Dahir, a hotel employee of four months, carried out a secondary suicide bombing at the Central Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, after al-Shabaab operatives detonated an initial explosion. Dahir, an al-Shabaab sympathizer, was targeting the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia.

NJOHSP encourages our partners to review resources and products on, which provides New Jersey-specific threat information and mitigation strategies. Included, are resources regarding Active Shooter Response and the Hometown Security Initiative, a program designed to train and educate owner-operators of public gathering facilities using the “Connect-Prepare-Train-Report” model.

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.