By Nour Gedi
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AA) - A double bomb attack on a hotel in Somali capital Mogadishu killed 11 people, including two lawmakers, local media reported Thursday.
The attack on the Ambassador Hotel began Wednesday afternoon when a car packed with explosives was driven into the hotel’s main gates, the Somalia National News Agency (SONNA) said.
The area was packed with vehicles and pedestrians at the time and a security source told Anadolu Agency that the blast was followed by a gunfight between the attackers and security staff.
SONNA initially reported 50 wounded in the attack with most being treated at the city’s Madina Hospital. The agency named the dead federal lawmakers as Abdullahi Jama Kabaweyne and Mohamoud Mohamed Gure and said they were among a group of six lawmakers at the hotel at the time of the blast. The remaining four were rescued by security forces.
“The explosion was strong,” emergency worker Ahmed Mohammad told Anadolu Agency. “It left 11 dead and dozens injured were transferred to nearby hospitals.”
Images from the scene showed severe damage to the hotel building and fire-gutted vehicles on the street outside.
Al-Shabaab, which has carried out a number of similar attacks in Mogadishu recently, quickly claimed responsibility through the SomaliMemo news website. “Mujahideen have managed to get into the hotel after the explosion and take control of the premises,” the group said in a statement.
Although the terror group was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011, it still retains a southern stronghold from which it has launched attacks in Somalia and neighboring countries.
Early Thursday, SONNA reported Somali special forces had finished an operation to retake the hotel, discovering dead bodies as they swept the premises.
Security Minister Abdirisak Omar Mohamed, Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayer and intelligence chief Abdirahman Turyare later arrived to inspect the scene.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to arrive in Mogadishu on Friday to inaugurate a new embassy. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said: “We condemn the terrorist attack that killed at least 10 people and injured many others.” It said Turkey would continue to support the Somali people.
* Anadolu Agency correspondents Felix Tih and Can Erozden contributed to this report from Ankara.