Mogadishu: The Shabab militant group continued its relentless campaign against civilians on Tuesday, detonating a large truck bomb near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia, that killed at least 15 people.
The Shabab, who have sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda, have slaughtered thousands of civilians in recent years in a string of bombings and mass shootings. On Tuesday morning, witnesses said, a truck loaded with heavy explosives blew up in front of the popular SYL Hotel, which is near Villa Somalia, the presidential palace. Government security officials were meeting inside the hotel at the time of the attack. The bomb ripped through the hotel’s concrete facade and sent up a plume of white smoke that could be seen for miles.
In a radio broadcast soon after, the Shabab said they had carried out the attack, which also wounded many people, including two government ministers. It does not appear that the bomb damaged the presidential palace or killed any senior government officials. Somalia’s fledging government, which relies heavily on African Union peacekeepers to protect it, seems powerless to stop the string of bombings. Just last week, Shabab fighters set off a car bomb in front of a popular beachside restaurant and then stormed it, killing 10.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia have been killed by conflict, famine and disease since the central government collapsed in 1991. The United States military has staged many airstrikes against the Shabab but Somalia continues to be plagued by Islamist militant groups. Soon after the bombing on Tuesday, images of destruction and dazed survivors standing amid the rubble appeared on social media. Some pictures showed a column of bright white smoke rising above an otherwise idyllic scene of tropical palm trees under a blue sky.
“Another senseless attack and another killing of innocent people but one fact reminds — the sheer determination of Somali people,” Abdi Barud, the executive director of Global Somali Diaspora, wrote on Twitter.