MOGADISHU // Hardline Islamist insurgents killed Somalia's security minister and at least 24 other people today in the deadliest suicide bomb attack yet in the country, officials said. The security minister Omar Hashi Aden was a key player in the government offensive against Islamist rebels who control much of southern Somalia and want to topple the government and impose a strict version of Islamic law in the nation.
A suicide car bomber targeted Aden and other officials at a hotel in Baladwayne, a central town where the minister was helping direct operations against the insurgent group al Shabaab, which Washington says has links to al Qa'eda. Mohamed Abdi, a shopkeeper near the hotel, said smoke was rising from the building, government forces started shooting after the blast and body parts were scattered in the street.
Officials and hospital sources said the bomb killed at least 25 people and wounded 38. "I am sending condolences to the family of the security minister Omar Hashi who was killed in an explosion in Baladwayne," president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told reporters, calling al Shabaab nothing more than a "mafia". Aden moved to Baladwayne at the start of June with heavily armed troops in a bid to recapture more territory from hardline Islamist insurgents outside Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. "One of our Mujahideen has carried out that holy attack and the so-called security minister and his men were killed," a group spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told local media. A senior official in the prime minister's office said Somalia's former ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdkarin Farah Laqanyo, was also killed in the explosion. * Reuters