MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia's new president survived an assassination attempt on his second day in office when two suicide bombers blew themselves up yesterday while trying to gain access into a heavily guarded hotel that is his temporary residence, officials and witnesses said.
The attack highlights the challenge that insecurity caused by an Islamist insurgency poses to Somalia's fledgling government, which is expected to help transform the east African country from being a failed state to one with functioning government.
The African Union Mission for Somalia said one of its soldiers was killed when the two suicide attackers attempted to penetrate the Jazeera Hotel where the President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Kenyas foreign minister were giving a news conference. Three soldiers were wounded in the blast.
The two suicide bombers set off explosions after they were shot by soldiers guarding the Jazeera Hotel, while another was intercepted and shot dead as he attempted to scale the walls of the hotel's compound, the African Union Mission for Somalia, known as Amisom, said in a statement.
Witnesses say at least one more person was killed, bringing the total death toll to a minimum of five, including the three attackers.
The president who was elected by Parliament on Monday, was undeterred by the explosions and continued to speak to the media, AMISOM said.
Al-Shabab, a radical Islamist militia that is affiliated with al-Qaida and waging an insurgency against the Somali government, quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. Al-Shabab had opposed Mohamuds election, saying it had been manipulated by Western powers.
Somali parliamentarians were tasked with electing a president since no election could be held, given the state of security around the country.
African Union forces are helping the Somali government fight al-Shabab, which the US has designated as terrorist group and which neighboring African countries consider a threat.
Police Corporal Yusuf Ali said he was guarding the Somalia immigration department near the Jazeera Hotel when the two blasts occurred.
An Associated Press photographer inside the hotel for the president's news conference with Kenyan Foreign Minister Sam Ongeri confirmed the two officials were safe. The photographer said he saw at least five bodies near the gate of the hotel. Witness Mohammed Nuradin confirmed that death toll.
President Mohamud has taken up temporary residence at Jazeera Hotel in a highly protected zone near the airport before moving to the presidential palace. During Monday's election, he defeated Sheik Shariff Sheikh Ahmed who was seeking re-election as president after having led a transitional government for three years. Somalia has had transitional administrations since 2004.