A suicide bomber has detonated a large bomb outside a popular Mogadishu hotel, killing soldiers and civilians and injuring top state officials. The nearby presidential compound was also damaged in the blast.
Over 20 people were killed and around 30 injured in the attack, officials and witnesses said on Tuesday.
The driver of the vehicle - which some witnesses described as a truck – targeted the fortified SYL hotel in Somali capital Mogadishu. The hotel is located near the main checkpoint that protects the entrance to the presidential compound.
"Security forces tried to stop the bomber who used back roads before he sped through checkpoints near the presidential palace and detonated the bomb," said police Colonel Ali Nur. "He reached near the gate of the state house with flat tires."
At the moment of the blast, government officials and civil society representativeswere meeting at the SYL hotel to discuss security policy, a senior intelligence officer told DPA.
The explosion could be heard across the Somali capital, with witnesses from the scene reporting sporadic gunfire after the incident. The blast completely destroyed parts of the SYL hotel, blew the roofs off nearby houses, and set several vehicles on fire. Nearby hotels and the presidential complex also sustained damage. At least five soldiers were among the casualties.
Third attack on 'apostates'
Deputy Defense Minister Ali Haga and two other ministers sustained minor injuries, according to state-run Radio Mogadishu. Haga told the radio that other legislators and officials were injured.
The al-Shabab terror group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack via radio Andalus, which is linked to the organization. They said they targeted the SYL hotel because it "is close to the presidential palace, and also home to apostates and unbelievers."
The latest suicide bombing is the third attack on the same hotel in less than three years. The previous two attacks killed a total of 19 people.
The hotel was popular with government officials, business people and visiting diplomats and delegations.
dj/jm (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)