The death toll in Monday’s twin suicide car bombings near Mogadishu international airport has risen to nine after rescue workers Tuesday found two bodies under the rubble of the Peace Hotel targeted by one of the bombers.
Regional officials told VOA’s Somali service that the bodies of a man and a woman were found after the hotel’s security cameras showed them standing near a wall at the impact of the explosion. At least 21 people were injured in the attacks.
The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. This was the second time the group used the tactic of back-to-back suicide vehicles, with the first meant to provoke panic and the second meant to cause maximum casualties.
The first of the two explosions targeted a checkpoint manned by Somali national security forces about midday local time. Immediately after the first explosion, a second car drove at high speed through the checkpoint and detonated outside the Peace Hotel opposite the airport, residents said.
Both explosions took place near Medina Gate, one of the main entrances of the airport.
Officials said the explosions also destroyed about 10 houses in the area. They said families had contacted rescue workers to report missing children, but none of those bodies have been found.
“First I heard gunshots, then a car explosion and then we took a duck,” said a witness who could not be named for security reasons. “When we came out to help the wounded, we saw a big truck drive through it [checkpoint], and it exploded.”
The second explosion was caused by a truck bomb, and it exploded at the road between the airport and the Peace Hotel, witnesses said.
The Peace Hotel sustained massive damage, said Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle, a reporter for VOA’s Somali service. The hotel is often used by Somali ministers, NGO workers and Somalis from the diaspora.
Ahmed Ali, one of the residents in the neighborhood, told VOA one of his neighbors was killed when a home collapsed. The victim’s sister and brother, a child, were wounded.
A spokesman for the Mogadishu administration, Abdifatah Omar Halane, said that “this was the biggest, loudest explosion ever to happen in Mogadishu. Thank God it took place in an area where there are not lots of civilians.”
Mogadishu ambulance services confirmed the death of one government soldier. The two suicide bombers were among those killed.
Somali Foreign Minister Abdusalam Hadliye Omer, who was in Nairobi, told VOA he had been living at the Peace Hotel for the past two years. He condemned the attack as “evil.”
“This is a terrorist act carried out by a group that does not want to see peace and governance in Somalia,” he said.