By Juma Kwayera [in Mogadishu] and agencies
A suicide bomber blew himself and a car bomb exploded outside Al-Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu minutes after Foreign Minister Sam Ongeri checked-in.
He had just landed with a precious letter emblazoned with Kenya’s presidential seal and bearing a message from President Kibaki for new Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Having been dropped at the entry of the hotel alongside Kenyan delegation in armoured African Mission In Somalia (Amisom) vehicles, Prof Ongeri and Mohamoud had done with the introductions, and the Kenyan minister was then reading out a message handed to him by Kibaki when hell broke lose outside, as explosions and gunshots rent the air.
“We were behind the Mogadishu hotel blasts. It was a well planned Mujahideen operation,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for Al Shabaab’s military operation, told Reuters.
“We are responsible for the attack against the so-called president and the delegation,” another Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage told AFP soon after the attack.
“First and foremost we will address the security issue. Priority number one is security. It is also priority number two and three,” Mohamud said, moments after the blasts, continuing for several minutes before being whisked away by security staff.
“There has been a blast around the hotel where the president was. The president is safe. All the people who were inside the hotel are safe,” Colonel Ali Houmed, a spokesman for the African Union force in Somalia, told the AFP news agency.
The first bomb borne by Al Shabaab suicide bomber went off about two minutes after Ongeri was ushered into the meeting room with Mohamoud, who has set up his base at the hotel since he took over on Tuesday.
The bomber, who Al Shabaab confirmed was their member, assigned the terror attack blew himself off at the lawns of the hotel.
Three minutes later, another bomb went off on the road immediately outside the hotel. Three Amisom security officers were reported dead as well, as the unidentified suicide bomber. On Tuesday, Al Shabaab branded Mohamud a “traitor” and vowed to continue their jihad against a government they say serves only Western interests.
Kenya sent troops into Somalia in November to help crush the Islamist insurgency. “The bomb blasts will change nothing. We are determined. We are there for the cause and until that cause has been achieved,” Bogita Ongeri, a spokesman for Kenya Defence Forces, told Reuters.