10 killed in Somali hotel attack
At least 10 people were killed when Islamic extremists targeted a hotel where Somali government officials were meeting.
Mogadishu's deputy mayor and a legislator were said to be among those killed in the attack on the city's Central Hotel, which saw one extremist ram an explosives-laden vehicle into the hotel gate and another going inside and blowing himself up.
The country's deputy prime minister was among the injured, a police official said.
The attack is the latest blow to the Somali government's efforts to contain the deadly insurgency by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group that, despite the loss of key strongholds in Somalia, continue to stage attacks in the capital and elsewhere.
The Islamic insurgent group claimed responsibility for the twin suicide bombings, according to the group's radio station Andulus.
"We can confirm that more than 10 persons, including politicians and soldiers, were killed in that horrific attack," said Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police officer.
The blast ripped off large parts of the hotel's wall and smoke blackened its facade. Two bodies could be seen lying outside the hotel, and a wounded man struggled to stand up but immediately collapsed.
Somali legislator Omar Ali Nor and Mogadishu's deputy mayor Mohamed Aden are among the dead, said politician Mohamed Ali.
"A dark day for our country," Mr Ali said.
Deputy PM Mohamed Omar Arte was rushed to hospital, and was among several other high-ranking government officials at the hotel at the time of the attack, Mr Hussein added.
Somalia's president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the attack on the hotel, saying it would not derail efforts by his government to restore peace to Somalia which is recovering from decades of war.
"We shall continue the anti-terrorism war, this attack makes clear that terrorists don't have any respect for the peaceful religion of Islam by killing innocent Muslims," he said in a statement issued after the attack.
It was the second attack on a hotel in Mogadishu in less than a month. On January 22, three Somali nationals were killed when a suicide car bomber blew himself up at the gate of a hotel housing the advance party of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who visited the country days later.
Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia's government and remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many attacks in Somalia and in neighbouring countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia's weak UN- backed government.
Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia's capital and other major cities by African Union forces.