MOGADISHU, SOMALIA // An explosion ripped through an upscale hotel in Somalia's capital today during a university graduation ceremony, killing nine people, including three Cabinet ministers and two journalists. More than three dozen medical, computer science and engineering students had gathered to receive their diplomas at the ceremony at the Shamow Hotel, which sits in the small patch of Mogadishu held by Somalia's weak central government. Today's explosion raised questions about the government's ability to even control that small area. "What happened today is a national disaster," said the information minister Dahir Mohamud Gelle, who confirmed that the ministers for education, higher education and health were killed in the blast.
The ministers for sports and tourism were wounded. Two journalists also were killed and two wounded. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said its Somali cameraman, Hassan Zubeir, died. A second Somali reporter working for a local media outlet also died, said Bashir Khalif, a reporter for the Somali government's radio service. Several hundred people had gathered inside a decorated ballroom in the Shamow Hotel to celebrate the graduations. Attendees were seated on plastic chairs and faced a small stage when the explosion went off. No officials could immediately confirm the cause of the blast. A reporter attending the ceremony said the explosion did not appear to be caused by a mortar blast because the roof remained intact, suggesting the blast was caused by a bomb planted in the hotel or possibly by a suicide bomber. The president of Benadir University said 43 students were taking part in the graduation ceremony. Of the three ministers killed in the blast, one was a woman - Qamar Aden Ali, the health minister. Ibrahim Hassan Adow, the minister for higher education, and Ahmed Abdullahi Wayel, the minister for education, also died. * AP