At least 12 people were killed when a suicide car bomb went off outside a popular hotel close to the presidential palace in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Tuesday. The attack was claimed by Shabaab militants. Security officer Ibrahim Mohamed said, there was a blast close to the SYL hotel area, near the main checkpoint of the presidential palace. A witness near the site of the explosion described seeing a huge blast.
“I saw a car speeding towards the area and huge smoke and fire went up in the sky,” said Elmi Ahmed. An AFP journalist at the scene saw two bodies in the street and described widespread damage to buildings in the area, but reported no gunfire immediately after the explosion.
The massive blast has left a trail of destruction across the hilltop presidential complex and to nearby hotels. The bombing tore into blast walls protecting hotels and blew off the roofs of nearby houses. “Security forces tried to stop the bomber who used back roads before he sped through checkpoints near the presidential palace and detonated the bomb,” said Col. Ali Nur, a police officer. “He reached near the gate of the state house with flat tires.”
Shabaab jihadists, who are aligned to the Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, the terrorist group said they targeted the SYL hotel because it “is close to the presidential palace, and also home to apostates and unbelievers.”
While al-Shabab has been ousted from most of Somalia’s cities, it continues to carry out bombings and suicide attacks, notably in the capital. In late July, two al-Shabab suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden cars outside the office of the U.N.’s mine-clearing agency and an army checkpoint near the African Union’s main base in Mogadishu, killing 13.
Other attacks have targeted hotels. In June, extremist gunmen stormed the Nasa-Hablod hotel, killing at least 14. Two weeks before that, extremist gunmen killed 15, including two members of parliament, at the Ambassador hotel.