(CNN) -- Somalia's internal security minister was killed Thursday in a massive suicide car bombing in central Somalia, the country's president said.
President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed blamed the attack on "international terrorists" who have invaded Somalia. He spoke at a news conference at his presidential palace in Mogadishu, hours after the attack.
The bombing targeted the hotel where the minister, Omar Hashi Adan, had been staying in the central city of Beledweyn, according to Yusuf Dabged, the governor of Hiiraan region.
Somalia's former ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdikarin Farah Laqanyo, was killed alongside the minister, government officials said. At least 11 others were killed in the bombing, including civilians and security guards, and eight people were seriously wounded, according to a hospital official.
Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, the official said.
"The explosion caused by the suicide bomber was so huge and could be heard in all corners in the city," said a local journalist in Beledweyn who asked not to be identified.
Adan -- a key minister in Somalia's newly elected transitional government -- was in the region to coordinate operations against Islamic militants, according to recent interviews he gave to the media.
His death will be a major setback to Ahmed, whose government is facing a strong backlash from Islamic militants.
A recent report in Somali media said Adan arrived in Beledweyn earlier this month "accompanied by a large number of heavily armed troops" and was staying at the Madina hotel, where the delegation planned to "hold meetings with community leaders of the region such as elders, religious leaders and others."
Meanwhile, heavy fighting in Mogadishu left at least 40 people dead and 130 wounded Wednesday after government security forces carried out attacks to dislodge Islamists from positions in the capital.
The police chief of Mogadishu, Col. Ali Saed Shiekh Hassan, was among the dead.
"This morning we are still recovering dead bodies from houses hit by mortars in yesterday's fighting," said Ali Muse, a volunteer with a local charity.
"We found a family of five in their house in Howlwadag district, all dead after heavy weapons smashed their house," the aid worker said.
In the north of the city, at least 13 worshippers died inside a mosque after it was hit by a mortar shell.
"This fighting is the worst I have ever seen, so I packed all my belongings and I have to get out of danger with my children," said Asha Omar, a mother of five who was fleeing on Thursday.
The family hid under their beds during the fighting Wednesday, she said.
"Yesterday, we couldn't lift our heads from the ground because bullets were flying everywhere," Omar said.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed||Top Searches|