, MOGADISHU Dec 3 – A suicide blast tore through a Mogadishu hotel on Thursday killing at least three ministers in Somalia\\\\\\\’s transitional government who were at a ceremony, officials said.
A staff member at the hotel said at least six people were killed in one of the most serious attacks on the government since the launch of an insurgency by the Al-Qaeda inspired Islamists that has brought new strife to the Horn of Africa nation.
Several ministers from the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) were at a graduation ceremony for students at the Shamo hotel when the explosion went off, the staff member said.
A hotel security official said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, who was probably among the guests.
Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addow and Health Minister Qamar Aden were killed on the spot and Education Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Waayel died shortly after the blast, a senior government official said.
Sports Minister Suleyman Olad Roble was among the injured, the official added.
Two journalists, one from Shabele Radio and another from Al Arabiya television, and a doctor were also killed, a source at the hotel said. AFP photographer Mohamed Dahir sustained slight injuries.
In Kampala, the acting head of AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, Wafula Wamunyini, said the attack "was intended to intimidate and blackmail the TFG. We condemn this incident in the strongest terms."
Thousands have been killed in Mogadishu in recent years as Islamists battle for control of the capital.
The Somali insurgents launched a fresh offensive against the transitional government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on May 7 and clashes since then that have left more than 250 dead while an estimated 120,000 people have fled the city.
Militants of the Shabaab militia have vowed to bring down the government and force all foreign peacekeepers in the African Union force out of the country.
Somalia has had no effective government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was forced out of power in the early 1990s.
The transitional government only exists with the backing of the 5,000 African Union peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda.
At least 60 peacekeepers have been killed since they were deployed in March 2007 to protecting strategic sites in the seaside city such as the presidency, the port and the airport. A twin suicide bombing at Mogadishu airport in September killed 17 peacekeepers.
Wamunyini ruled out any withdrawal of peacekeepers following the new attack however: "We want to ensure everyone we are going to continue with our mission. We are going to continue providing our services."
The Islamists control large swathes of Mogadishu as well as much of the centre and south of the country.
The attack came a day after AMISOM head Wamunyini expressed frustration at the failure of African countries to honour troop commitments. The force is meant to have 8,000 soldiers.
Wamunyinyi said the threat posed by Islamist insurgents had been exaggerated, scaring off countries from deployments.
"We feel really frustrated and let down that several African nations have not honoured their commitment to send troops, but the media have made it difficult for them to deploy," he said.
"And nobody seems to appreciate the AMISOM has accomplished a lot," he said at the press conference in Kampala where military chiefs and other AU officials are meeting on ways to boost the force.