, MOGADISHU, Jun 18 – Somalia’s internal security minister was among 10 people killed Thursday in a suicide bombing at a hotel in Beledweyne, north of the capital, management at the hotel who witnessed the blast told AFP.
Hotel worker Ahmed Abdi said up to 13 people could have died in the attack, staged at the hotel where Minister Omar Hashi Aden was staying with his entourage.
"His body is lying at the reception," he said.
Abdi said the suicide bomber drove an explosives laden Toyota saloon car up to Hotel Medina as the minister and his delegation was preparing to leave.
Witnesses told AFP the blast destroyed much of the hotel and left a thick pall of smoke over the town, around 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of the capital.
Blackened corpses were visible among the debris, they said.
A local Islamic official confirmed the minister’s death, and told reporters that Somalia’s former ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdulkarim Ibrahim Lakanyo, was among the dead.
Aden’s killing was the most high-profile political assassination in Somalia since Islamist insurgents stepped up a campaign against the wobbly administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on May 7.
It follows that of Mogadishu’s top police commander, killed on Wednesday when at least 26 people lost their lives in the capital, half of them when a mortar shell hit a mosque.
Ahmed is a former Islamist rebel who joined a UN-brokered peace process last year and was elected by parliament in January. His government forces have been battling hard-line Islamist Shebab since early May.
More than 122,000 people have since been displaced, bringing the total number of war refugees in the country to 1.3 million, according to UN figures.
Aden was on a visit to his native town of Baladweyne, which is close to the Ethiopian border.