Chinese embassy security official killed in bomb attack in Somalia

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A Chinese armed police officer working at the country’s embassy in Somalia was killed during a bomb attack in Mogadishu yesterday.

A suicide bomber rammed a truck rigged with explosives into the blast walls around one of Mogadishu’s most secure hotels, severely damaging the building and killing nine people.

The attack was claimed by the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab group and also wounded 20 people.

The Chinese embassy is based inside the hotel and was partially damaged in the attack, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The police officer in charge of security was in the embassy when the attack took place, according to a statement released by Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

The man was taken to hospital with severe injuries and died from his injuries.

Three other members of staff were injured.

“China has been deeply shocked by the attack and strongly condemns it,” the statement said. “We extend our deepest condolences to the Chinese national who died in the attack.”

The embassy will step up security and China’s foreign ministry will continue to work closely with the Somalian authorities to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in Somalia, the statement said.

The walled, luxury Jazeera Hotel is considered the most secure in Somalia’s capital.

It houses several embassies and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state.

“This is really scary, destroying the Jazeera hotel like this means no blast walls can make anyone safe,” said bystander Yusuf Mohammed.

The use of huge truck bombs is a relatively new phenomenon and throws into doubt whether any place in the capital is now adequately protected.

The blast destroyed at least eight rooms and stunned the residents of the Somali capital, but it was not as bad as it might have been because the truck, which contained a tonne of explosives, was stopped at the blast walls outside the hotel.

“The damage is big, but a lot less because the truck bomb couldn’t go beyond the walls that lay a few metres from the hotel’s perimeter walls,” said Mohammed Abdi, a police officer.

Nervous soldiers fired in the air to disperse a crowd who surged towards the hotel after the blast as medical workers transported wounded victims into awaiting ambulances.

The attack comes as Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union have launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Jubba Corridor, to push al-Shabab out of its last strongholds. The coalition already has driven the group out of the capital.

Al-Shabab said in a statement that the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of Ethiopian forces, which are part of the African Union force and that the hotel was targeted because it hosts “Western” embassies coordinating the offensive.

The attack came as President Barack Obama was leaving neighbouring Kenya for Ethiopia. The president’s visit has included discussions about how to deal with the threat of al-Shabab.

The White House Press Office issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attack and extending condolences to the families of the victims.

“Despite the very real progress Somalia has achieved in recent years, this attack is yet another reminder of the unconscionable atrocities that terrorist groups continue to perpetrate against the people of Somalia,” the statement read.

The United States remained steadfast in its commitment to work with Somalia to bring an end to such acts of terrorism, the statement added.

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