Toll from al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu rises to 22

At least 22 people were killed in bombings and gunfire in a Mogadishu hotel and a public garden, the Somalia security minister said Saturday.

Most of the 22 victims were civilians, but also killed were six suspected militants and five security force members, local government spokesman Abdifitah Omar Halane told dpa.

The attacks late Friday, which also left 30 wounded, were claimed by Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab.

Gunmen stormed the highly secured SYL Hotel in central Mogadishu after a suicide bomber rammed a truck packed with explosives into acheckpoint outside its gates, Security Minister Abdirisak Omar Mohamed told reporters in the capital on Saturday.

The SYL Hotel is frequented by diplomats, government officials, foreign nationals and even hosts visiting heads of state. It is located near the presidential palace.

Initial investigations conducted by international explosives experts and local police revealed that the truck was carrying about 200 kilograms of explosives, the minister said.

The massive blast created a 15-metre-deep crater and "was the biggest one ever witnessed in Somalia," he said.

Last year, al-Shabaab targeted the same hotel in a suicide car bombing as Turkish delegates were preparing for the visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Fifteen people, all of them Somali, were killed.

Witness Osman Abdullahi, who said he counted six bodies at a nearby restaurant, told dpa: "I thought a missile landed in the area. My other colleagues were speculating an airstrike was carried out."

Also targeted was Peace Garden, a public garden near the hotel, which attracts hundreds of families in the evenings and at the weekend.

Intelligence officer Mohamed Hassan said the blast was from a car parked near the garden and was detonated by remote control.

"We were one of the people who were taking their time with their kids in the garden at the time of the attacks," said Abdiqani Omar, a father of four, who managed to exit the area to safety.

"A flying stone hit my head. There was a blood in my face, but not so serious," he said.

Militants from al-Shabaab, which is seeking an Islamist state in Somalia and is affiliated with the international al-Qaeda terrorist network, attack government facilities in Mogadishu on a regular basis.

Last update: Sat, 27/02/2016 - 13:27
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