Suicide car bomb targets Mogadishu hotel as Turks meet on eve of Erdoğan visit
Somali government forces assess the scene of a suicide car explosion in front of the SYL hotel in the capital Mogadishu, Jan. 22, 2015. AFP PhotoA suicide car bomb exploded at the gate of a Mogadishu hotel where Turkish delegates were meeting on Jan. 22, a day ahead of a visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Somali capital.
"The Turkish delegates are safe inside the hotel," police captain Farah Nur told Reuters. "The hotel was busy."
Sources in the hotel, situated close to the heavily-fortified presidential palace, said there were around 70 members of a Turkish delegation in the hotel at the time.
"Five people were killed in the attack, among them three security guards," police official Mohamed Adan said., according to AFP.
"The attacker drove a car loaded with explosives aiming at the gate of the hotel but could not manage to reach inside. The explosion destroyed the perimeter partially."
Witnesses said they saw a car speeding towards the gate of the hotel.
"I saw the speeding along the main road and the driver turned into the Hotel SYL gate. There was huge explosion, smoke and shrapnel. Several people were down on the ground," said Abdukadir Munin.
The area around the hotel was quickly sealed off and police fired shots to keep away onlookers, witnesses said.
Al Shabaab militants claimed the responsibility of the attack.
In Ankara, Turkish officials said there were no casualties among the Turkish delegation and Erdoğan's visit would go ahead.
Speaking at a press conference in Davos, Switzerland, minutes after the attack, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that an investigation had been launched to find out whether the attack "directly targeted" the Turkish delegation.
"There can be risks, but Turkey's decisive attitude will not change," Davutoğlu added, stressing that Erdoğan and himself did not cancel their planned visits to Mogadishu in 2011 despite such risks.
Erdoğan, who was in Ethiopia at the time, condemned the attack. "If they do it in the name of Islam, there is nothing like that in our religion. We are against terror whatever mask it hides itself behind," he said, adding that Turkey "will unrelentingly keep giving messages of peace."
“If a Muslim is engaged in terrorism, then he is a terrorist. If a Christian does it, then he is a terrorist. If a Jew does it, then he is a terrorist," the Turkish president said, before adding that while the militants that attacked the French magazine Charlie Hebdo should be condemned, the West should also direct the same condemnation at Syria President Bashar al-Assad for causing the deaths of 350,000 people as "the chief terrorist."
Mogadishu is the frequent target of car bombs, and the city has been under heavy security ahead of Erdoğan's visit.
Erdoğan became the first non-African leader to visit wartorn Somalia in nearly 20 years when he traveled there in 2011 as Turkey's prime minister.
Turkey is a key ally of the Somali government. It was a major contributor to the humanitarian aid effort at the height of the 2011 famine and Ankara continues to build hospitals and dispatch aid across Somalia.