5 dead in car blast at Somalia hotel, al-Shabaab claims attack
At least five persons were killed and 28 injured when jihadists exploded a suicide car bomb outside a popular hotel close to the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Tuesday. “We have confirmed five people killed, including security guards”, said Mohamed Abdulkadir, a police officer.
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. “The blast was very huge but thank God the number of casualties is less than the devastation suggests,” Abdulkadir said.
“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 a huge smoke as 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 jihadist group said it was responsible for the attack, saying that 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 be immediately verified but the Shabaab frequently exaggerates the impact of its attacks. The fortified hotel, popular with government officials, business people and diplomats, was attacked in February 2016 and January last year.