Three ministers among 11 killed in Somalia blast (Lead)

December 3rd, 2009 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Mogadishu, Dec 3 (DPA) A bomb blast ripped through a hotel in the lawless Somali capital Mogadishu Thursday, killing three government ministers and at least eight others.
The apparent suicide attack took place at the Shamo Hotel during a graduation ceremony for dozens of university students, a DPA correspondent at the scene said.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the blast, but Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab - which the US says is linked to Al Qaeda - has increasingly turned to suicide bombings as it battles to oust the weak Western-backed government.

Government officials confirmed that Health Minister Qamar Aden Ali, Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addow and Education Minister Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel were among the dead. The Minister for Youth and Sports, Saleeban Olaad Roble, was seriously injured.

Hassan Subeyr Haji Hassan, a cameraman for Arabic TV channel al-Arabiya, and Mohamed Amiin Aden Abdulle, a journalist with Somalia’s Radio Shabelle, were also killed, the Somali Journalists’ Rights Agency said.

A doctor died on the spot, while medics said another five victims succumbed to their injuries after arriving at hospital. Over 40 people are being treated for injuries of varying severity.

Witnesses told DPA they saw a man enter the hotel and detonate a device strapped to his body. Other unconfirmed reports say the male bomber was disguised as a woman.

Dozens of guests, many of them bleeding, staggered from the partially destroyed building, while shocked onlookers gathered to cry and condemn the bomber in the wake of the attack.

Hundreds of students and their family members, lecturers and government officials were attending the ceremony for graduates from the local Banadir University.

The bombing raises further questions about the government and AU’s ability to police the few areas they control in Somalia.

Seventeen peacekeepers died in a suicide blast at their main base in September, while Somalia’s Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden was among dozens killed in a suicide car bomb attack on a hotel in the central town of Baladweyne in June.

Diplomats and AU officials say foreign fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan are increasingly flocking to the lawless Horn of Africa nation to fight alongside al-Shabaab - which controls much of the country - and attend terrorist training camps.

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