Mogadishu blast death toll hits 15
Mogadishu - The death toll from a suicide bombing targeting government officials in the Somali capital Mogadishu has risen to 15, authorities said on Thursday.
Thirteen people died when the car bomb exploded near a hotel popular with lawmakers on Wednesday evening, and two died of their injuries in hospital, a government official told dpa.
Witnesses said bystanders and people who had been drinking tea in the vicinity of the Hotel Muna and the Fathi cafeteria in Hamar Weyne district were among the victims of the blast.
Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab, which has been fighting to oust the internationally backed government since early 2007, said it carried out the attack.
The group on its Twitter feed said the bomb killed 17, mainly senior government officials and lawmakers. However, the government said the dead were civilians.
Al-Shabaab abandoned conventional warfare in Mogadishu in August as it came under increasing pressure from the African Union peacekeeping force, known as Amisom, and pro-government forces.
Since then, the group has turned to suicide blasts and ambushes, killing hundreds in multiple attacks.
The latest blast came as Alexander Rondos, the new European Union Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, visited the capital.
There has been a recent upsurge in visits by foreign officials, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague last week, as governments and donors look to take advantage of the apparent weakening of al-Shabaab to finally bring stability to Somalia.
The British government will host an international conference in London on February 23, with 40 nations expected to attend. Fundraising will be on the agenda.
The UN's appeal to donors to raise $1.5bn to help Somalia's humanitarian crisis in 2012 has so far met a weak response, with only 5% of the sum covered.
The East African nation was plunged into chaos in 1991 following the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, prompting a mass exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries.