December 3, 2009 -Mogadishu - A suicide bomber disguised as a veiled woman killed at least 19 people, including three Somali government ministers, on Thursday at a medical graduation ceremony in a Mogadishu hotel, witnesses and officials said.
It was the worst attack in the lawless Horn of Africa nation since June, when hardline al Shabaab insurgents killed the security minister and at least 30 other people in a suicide bombing at a hotel in the town of Baladwayne.
he United Nations-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls little more than a few streets of the capital. In the days ahead of Thursday's attack, residents said it had apparently been planning a new offensive against the rebels.
The bombing showed once again the insurgents' ability to strike the government at will, and it will heighten frustration in the country's fragile administration over delayed pledges of military and financial support from Western donors.
"Suicide bombings are a worrying trend not only for Somalia but also the region. There has been a rise in fundamentalism in Somalia coming from the Middle East and Pakistan," said Bethuel Kiplagat, Kenya's special envoy to the Somalia peace process from 2003-2005. "There's a worry al-Qaeda may be looking at Somalia as a new sanctuary."
A Reuters reporter at the Shamo Hotel said it was packed with graduates from Benadir University, their parents and officials when a powerful blast tore through the ceremony.
"Human flesh was everywhere," he said.
Witnesses said the bomber entered the function disguised as a veiled woman and then sat listening to the speeches for some time before approaching the podium and blowing himself up. Police later showed journalists pictures of his mangled corpse.
Somalia's female health minister, Qamar Aden Ali, Education Minister Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel and Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addow all died in the explosion, officials said. Sports Minister Saleban Olad Roble was critically injured.
The African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM said 19 civilians were killed. A local rights group said more than 40 were wounded, including the dean of Benadir's medical college.
"A lot of my friends were killed," medical student Mohamed Abdulqadir told Reuters. "I was sitting next to a lecturer who also died. He had been speaking to the gathering just a few minutes before the explosion.
In: News, Other
Tags: mogadishu, bomb blast, terror, terrorist, terrorists, Baladwayne, al shabaab, explosion, africa, violence, al-Qaeda, middle east, iraq, iran, afghanistan, pakistan, ghastlyghost, 2009
Location: Mogadishu, Banaadir, Somalia (load item map)
Marked as: approved, featured
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