12 dead in attack near Somalia presidency

MOGADISHU: A suicide bomber has detonated an explosives-laden truck near the gate of Somalia’s presidential palace in the capital on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, police say.
The bomb exploded during a morning traffic jam, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police officer.

Some cabinet ministers at the SYL hotel were among the 31 injured, said Hussein. The blast damaged nearby hotels often frequented by government officials and business executives, he said.

The explosion was heard across Mogadishu, and smoke was seen billowing over the area of the presidential compound.

He said the vehicle rammed through a checkpoint and was fired on by security forces before it exploded outside the SYL hotel.

The hotel is situated close to the main entrance to the Villa Somalia government complex that includes the presidential palace, ministry buildings and residences.

“We have received 28 people who were wounded in the blast,” said Mohamed Yusuf, director of the city’s main Medina hospital.

A witness described seeing a large blast and a thick plume of smoke that rose high into the air.

“I saw a car speeding towards the area and huge smoke and fire went up in the sky,” said Elmi Ahmed.

An AFP journalist at the scene described widespread damage to buildings in the area. The blast left a crater in the road, nearby walls collapsed and debris scattered across the usually busy carriageway.

The Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab group said it was responsible for the attack, saying the SYL hotel was targeted because it “is close to the presidential palace, and also home to apostates and unbelievers.”

The group claimed to have killed 30 in the “martyrdom operation” and said a number of ministers and MPs were injured.

The claim could not immediately be verified but the Shabaab frequently exaggerates the impact of its attacks.

The fortified hotel, popular with government officials, business people and visiting diplomats and delegations, was previously attacked in both February this year and January last year.

The January 2015 attack killed at least five people when a suicide car bomber rammed the hotel gates on the eve of a visit by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In February this year 14 people were killed when twin blasts were triggered close to the hotel and the neighbouring Peace Garden on a busy Friday afternoon.

Agence France-Presse

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