Al-Shabab suicide truck bomb hits luxury Somalia hotel, killing nine
A suicide bomber rammed a truck rigged with explosives into the blast walls around one of Mogadishu's most secure hotels, severely damaging the building and killing nine people including a Chinese diplomat.
Somalia's foreign minister Abdisalam Omer said that a Kenyan diplomat was also wounded in the attack.
The attack was claimed by the al Qaida-linked al-Shabab group and also wounded some 20 people.
The walled, luxury Jazeera Hotel is considered the most secure in Somalia's capital and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state.
"This is really scary - destroying the Jazeera hotel like this means no blast walls can make anyone safe," said bystander Yusuf Mohammed.
The use of huge truck bombs is a relatively new phenomenon and throws into doubt whether any place in the capital is now adequately protected.
While blast destroyed at least eight rooms and stunned the residents of the Somali capital, it was not as bad as it might have been because the truck, which contained a ton of explosives, was stopped at the blast walls outside the hotel.
"The damage is big but a lot less because the truck bomb couldn't go beyond the walls that lay a few metres from the hotel's perimeter walls," said Mohammed Abdi, a police officer.
Nervous soldiers fired in the air to disperse a crowd who surged toward the hotel after the blast as medical workers transported wounded victims into awaiting ambulances.
The attack comes as Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union have launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Jubba Corridor, to push al-Shabab out of its last strongholds. The coalition has already driven the group out of the capital.
Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of Ethiopian forces, which are part of the AU force, and that the hotel was targeted because it hosts "Western" embassies co-ordinating the offensive.
The attack came as President Barack Obama was leaving neighbouring Kenya for Ethiopia. The US president's visit has included discussions about how to deal with the threat of al-Shabab.
T he White House condemned the attack and extended condolences to the families of the victims.
"Despite the very real progress Somalia has achieved in recent years, this attack is yet another reminder of the unconscionable atrocities that terrorist groups continue to perpetrate against the people of Somalia," it said.