Suicide attack in Somalia ahead of Erdogan’s visit

MOGADISHU: At least five people were killed Thursday in a suicide car bombing against a hotel in Mogadishu on the eve of a visit to the Somali capital by Turkey’s president, police and witnesses said. Sources in the hotel, situated close to the heavily-fortified presidential palace, said there were around 70 members of a Turkish delegation in the hotel at the time, but none of them was hurt by the blast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabab rebels — who are fighting to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government — have carried out a string of attacks against high-profile targets in Mogadishu.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due in Mogadishu on Friday in what will be a rare visit by a foreign leader, although officials said the trip would go ahead as planned.

“Five people were killed in the attack, among them three security guards,” police official Mohamed Adan said. “The attacker drove a car loaded with explosives aiming at the gate of the hotel but could not manage to reach inside. The explosion destroyed the perimeter partially.”

Witnesses said they saw a car speeding toward the gate of the hotel. “I saw the speeding along the main road and the driver turned into the Hotel SYL gate. There was huge explosion, smoke and shrapnel. Several people were down on the ground,” said Abdukadir Munin. The area around the hotel was quickly sealed off and police fired shots to keep away onlookers, witnesses said.

The attack comes even though Mogadishu, and particularly the area around the presidential palace, has been placed under extra-tight security ahead of Erdogan’s visit. Many of the Turkish officials inside the hotel were security personnel preparing for his arrival and businessmen, Somali sources said. Speaking in Davos, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters the visit, during which Erdogan is due to meet his counterpart Hassan Sheik Mohamud, would not be canceled despite the fact that Somalia was a country with “high security” risks.

“Risks could happen but Turkey’s determined position will not change,” he said.

The Turkish foreign ministry also said there were no casualties among the Turkish delegation in the hotel aside from some minor cuts from flying glass.

“There could be casualties among Somalis but there was no casualty on the Turkish side. One might have been lightly injured because of the smashed windows of the hotel, and Somalia authorities have raised the security level,” the ministry said.

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