The Somali government says the death toll from a suicide attack at a hotel in the Somali capital on Friday has risen to 25, and 40 wounded.
A statement from Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke’s office on Saturday said an Islamic extremist rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the gate of the Central Hotel, and another went in and blew himself up.
Government officials were meeting at the hotel at the time, and the statement says Mogadishu’s deputy mayor and two legislators were among the dead. It was unclear whether the 25 dead included the two bombers.
Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants claimed the responsibility for the attack. Despite the loss of key strongholds in Somalia, al-Shabab continue to stage attacks in the capital and elsewhere.
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-Qaida-linked al-Shabab that, despite the loss of key strongholds in Somalia, continue to stage attacks in the capital and elsewhere.
The blast ripped off large parts of the hotel’s wall and smoke blackened its facade. 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 had cordoned off the area.
Terrified pedestrians ran through the streets, with one survivor recounting the bloody scene.
“Disaster, limbs were flying scattered around like tissue papers,” said Muhyadin Dahir, who was dust-faced and bloodied. 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 was rushed to a hospital, and was among several other high-ranking government officials at the hotel at the time of the attack, said police officer Hussein.
Somalia’s president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the attack on the hotel, 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, this attack makes clear that terrorists don’t have any respect for the peaceful religion of Islam by killing innocent Muslims.” he said in a statement issued after the attack.
The UN representative to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, condemned the attack in the strongest terms and called it a “cruel and despicable crime intending to rob Somalis of their hope for a better future.”
This is the second attack on a hotel in Mogadishu in less than a month.
On January 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 the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who visited the country days later.
Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab 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 neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak UN- backed government.
Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces.