Somali President Mohamud's hotel targeted by bombers

Somali government soldiers patrols the scene of an explosion in capital Mogadishu on 12 September 2012 Two Somali soldiers and a member of the African Union force died in the attack

There has been a suicide attack at the gates of a hotel in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, where the new president was staying.

A BBC reporter says at least seven people died in the attack, including the two bombers who targeted the hotel.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has been based at the Jazeera hotel near the airport, was unharmed.

The al-Qaeda-aligned group al-Shabab said it had carried out the attack.

On Tuesday, the group said the president's election, which is the latest step to end decades of war, was organised by the "enemies of Somalia".

It was the first time for years that a president has been chosen on Somali soil.

"This atrocious attack comes only two days after a milestone vote where the Somali parliament overwhelmingly and transparently elected Mr Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president, giving to Somalia a renewed hope for a better future," UN envoy to Somalia Augustine Mahiga said in a statement.

"Such attempts to push the country back into chaos and violence will not deter the Somali people's determination to move forward."

Kenya minister visiting

"There has been a blast around the hotel where the president was. The president is safe. All the people who were inside the hotel are safe," Col Ali Houmed, a spokesman for the African Union force in the country, known as Amisom, told the AFP news agency.

Who is Hassan Sheikh Mohamud?

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
  • Born in central Hiran region in 1955
  • From the major Hawiye clan
  • Married, speaks Somali and English
  • Linked to al-Islah, Somalia's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood
  • Studied engineering at the Somali National University and became a lecturer in 1981
  • Obtained an MBA from Bhopal University
  • Stayed in Somalia during the civil war, working as a consultant with non-governmental groups, UN bodies and on several peace initiatives
  • Helped set up the Simad University in 1999
  • Founded his Peace and Development Party (PDP) in 2011
  • Elected an MP in August 2012

One witness told the BBC Somali Service that two militants parked a vehicle near the hotel and walked towards the building.

One man blew himself up at the gate as the second man ran into the hotel firing a gun which wounded a policeman, he said.

The second attacker was shot dead before there was a further explosion.

The BBC's Ibrahim Aden in Mogadishu says two Somali soldiers were killed in the first blast and two civilians were killed in the ensuing shoot out.

In a statement, Amisom said one of its soldiers had died and three others were injured.

Six civilians were also wounded and are being treated in hospital for bullet wounds, our reporter says.

The blasts took place as President Mohamud was holding a press conference in the Jazeera Hotel with visiting Kenyan Foreign Minister Sam Ongeri.

"When we just started the press conference there was a suicide bombing outside and gunshots which were heard from outside the hotel," a woman inside the building, who asked to remain anonymous, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"We could see them from the window," she said.

The Kenyan foreign ministry confirmed that there was an attack whilst Mr Ongeri was delivering a "goodwill message" to the new president.

"The meeting however went on successfully after the thwarted terrorist attack with Minister Ongeri and his entourage are expected back to the country later this evening," the statement said.

Kenya sent troops to Somalia last year, saying that it wanted al-Shabab defeated because the militants threatened its security.

Kenyan soldiers have since joined the Amisom force in the country, boosting its numbers to nearly 18,000.

Just over a year ago, al-Shabab was largely driven out of Mogadishu by African Union forces and Somali government troops.

But militants still stage occasional attacks in the city.

Since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbours all battling for control.

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