Somalia deputy PM wounded, 10 killed in hotel suicide bombings
Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for attack that killed 2 Mogadishu legislators
- Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson issues statement on bombing
Government officials were meeting at the Central Hotel in Somalia's capital when an Islamist extremist rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the hotel gate, and another followed and detonated his explosives, killing at least 10 people on Friday, officials said.
Mogadishu's deputy mayor and a legislator were killed in the attack, a lawmaker said, and the country's deputy prime minister was among the wounded, said a police official.
The attack is the latest blow to the Somali government's efforts to contain the deadly insurgency by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab that, despite the loss of key strongholds in Somalia, continue to stage attacks in the capital and elsewhere. The Islamic insurgent group claimed the responsibility for the twin suicide bombings, according to the group's radio station, Andulus.
"We can confirm that more than 10 persons, including politicians and soldiers, were killed in that horrific attack," said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police officer.
Hotel badly damaged
The blast ripped off large parts of the hotel's wall and smoke blackened its façade. Two dead bodies were lying outside the hotel in Mogadishu, and a wounded man struggled to stand up, but immediately collapsed as blood gushed from his abdomen. Soldiers cordoned off the area.
Terrified pedestrians ran through the streets, one survivor said.
"Disaster — limbs were flying, scattered around like tissue papers," said Muhyadin Dahir, who faces was covered in blood and dust.
Somali legislator Omar Ali Nor and Mogadishu's deputy mayor Mohamed Aden are among the dead, said lawmaker Mohamed Ali.
"A dark day for our country," Ali said.
Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Omar Arte, who was rushed to a hospital, was among several other high-ranking government officials at the hotel at the time of the attack, said Hussein.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the attack, saying it would not derail efforts by his government to restore peace to Somalia, which is recovering from decades of war.
"We shall continue the anti-terrorism war," he said in a statement. "This attack makes clear that terrorists don't have any respect for the peaceful religion of Islam by killing innocent Muslims."
A dark day for our country.- Mohamed Ali, Somali legislator
The UN representative to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, condemned the attack in the strongest terms, calling it a "cruel and despicable crime intending to rob Somalis of their hope for a better future."
In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson issued a statement that said in part: "Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack at the Central Hotel in downtown Mogadishu, which was claimed by al-Shabaab. The targeting of innocent civilians is indefensible. ... On behalf of all Canadians, I express my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those killed in this senseless attack and wish a swift and full recovery to the injured."
This is the second attack on a hotel in Mogadishu in less than a month. On Jan. 22, three Somali nationals were killed when a suicide car bomber blew himself up at the gate of a hotel housing the advance party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who would visit the country days later.
Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabaab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia's government and remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many attacks in Somalia and in neighbouring countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia's weak UN- backed government.
Al-Shabaab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of the capital and other major cities by African Union forces.
With files from the CBC