Suicide bomber hits near presidential palace in Somalia

Extremist group al-Shabaab claims responsibility after blast kills 5


Security forces stand at the SYL hotel that was partly destroyed following a car bomb claimed by al-Shabaab Islamist militants outside the president’s palace in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, on Tuesday. (Feisal Omar/Reuters)

A suicide bomber has detonated an explosives-laden truck near the gate of Somalia’s presidential palace in the capital on Tuesday, killing at least five people, police say.

The bomb exploded during a morning traffic jam, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police officer.

Some cabinet ministers at the SYL hotel were among the injured, said Hussein. The blast damaged nearby hotels often frequented by government officials and business executives, he said.

The explosion was heard across Mogadishu, and smoke was seen billowing over the area of the presidential compound.

Somalia’s Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab has claimed the responsibility for the blast, according to the rebels’ Andalus radio station.

Mogadishu’s Madina hospital received 28 injured victims, said Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the hospital’s director.

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.”

Bombings, suicide attacks

While al-Shabaab 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-Shabaab suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden cars outside the office of the UN’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.