MOGADISHU - Somalia's Shebab insurgents killed at least 13 people Sunday in a suicide bomb attack on a hotel in the capital Mogadishu, a security official said Monday, updating an earlier death toll.
"The devastation was huge, and so far 13 people, all of them innocent civilians, have been confirmed dead," government security officer Ahmed Ali said. "Some of the wounded died last night, while other bodies were recovered under the wreckage of nearby buildings." The Jazeera Palace hotel is home to the diplomatic missions of China, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and popular among Somali government officials and foreign visitors.
Initial reports had put the death toll at six.
Beijing said Monday one of its embassy staff was killed and three others slightly wounded.
The suicide vehicle attack, the latest in a string of bomb blasts and killings in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, came as US President Barack Obama left neighbouring Kenya and headed to Ethiopia, both key nations contributing troops to the African Union force battling the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
The White House strongly condemned the attack, describing it as "abhorrent".
The hotel has also been the target of Shebab attacks in the past, including in 2012 when suicide bombers stormed the hotel while President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was inside.
Mohamed condemned the attack.
"This was an attack on a symbol - the Jazeera Hotel was a place where the international community met their counterparts in Somali politics, business and civil society," Mohamud said in a statement Monday.
"But I have a message for the terrorists: the Jazeera Palace will be rebuilt and it will soon be back in business. That is how we respond to callous attacks such as this - attacks that, as is so often the case, harm only innocent Somali citizens and our international colleagues who are here to help." Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said the bombing was in revenge for an African Union and Somali government offensive against Shebab bases in southern Somalia launched earlier this month.
"We are happy about their deaths," Rage said, calling the joint forces fighting the Shebab a "satanic military".