* Suicide bomb attack kills at least eight people
* President Mohamud was holding news conference at time
* Islamist rebels promise to keep fighting
By Yara Bayoumy
MOGADISHU, Sept 12 Islamist suicide bombers
attacked the hotel where Somalia's president was giving a news
conference on Wednesday, killing eight people and sending
reporters diving for cover.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud - just two days into his job
- and the visiting Kenyan foreign minister were unhurt in the
attack claimed by Somalia's al Shabaab rebels.
The first explosion struck shortly after 2 p.m. (1100 GMT)
as Kenya's Sam Ongeri started to speak. Volleys of gunshots
erupted as local and foreign journalists ducked behind pillars,
velvet red chairs and cameras.
Mohamud, who had been staying at the hotel since being
elected on Monday, was unfazed and Ongeri continued his speech,
saying: "I believe this is the price of peace."
Seven-and-a-half minutes later, a second explosion erupted.
The attacks - on the newly built Jazeera Palace hotel, near
the airport and one of the securest places in Mogadishu -
underscore the security challenges facing Mohamud, whose
election was hailed by many as a way to end 20 years of violent
"We were behind the Mogadishu hotel blasts. It was a well
planned Mujahideen operation," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, a
spokesman for al Shabaab's military operations, told Reuters.
A journalist accompanying Ongeri said she had seen "pieces
of meat flying all over the place" after the first blast.
"Then I saw a second guy shooting as he stormed towards the
hotel," said Jamila Mohammed, who was outside the hotel when the
"PRIORITY 1, 2, 3: SECURITY"
A Reuters witness said the severed leg of one of the suicide
bombers wearing a white sneaker could be seen just outside the
hotel's gate where African Union armoured vehicles were parked,
at least one of which was splattered with blood.
A severed head lay in a large crater in the road dozens of
metres (yards) away from the hotel, which overlooks the Indian
Mohamud's election by Somali lawmakers on Monday was hailed
by his supporters as a vote for change in the war-ridden Horn of
Africa country that has lacked effective central government
Although he is relatively new to politics, the former
academic faces old problems: a stubborn Islamist insurgency,
acrimonious clan politics, rampant corruption and maritime
"First and foremost we will address the security issue here
in Somalia ... Our priority number one, our priority number two
and priority number three is security," Mohamud said moments
after the blasts to cheers in the audience.
The A.U. Peacekeeping force AMISOM said a third attacker was
shot dead as he attempted to scale the hotel's courtyard.
His body was lying in a pool of blood where three A.U
vehicles were parked just outside the hotel.
"Shabaab are very well-organised. Look at their timing.
These people, they are everywhere," said Mohamed Maie, a foreign
ministry official, sitting in the lobby after the attack.
"When the hope and aspirations came, that's the time they
wanted to destroy hope. You don't relax just because some people
voted for a positive sign, it doesn't mean everything is honey."
SHABAAB TO CONTINUE JIHAD
Al Shabaab - al Qaeda-linked militants - said the explosions
had killed four members of the security forces. A Somali
ambulance service worker said they had picked up the bodies of
five government soldiers and two civilians.
"I could also see three dead African Union soldiers," the
ambulance worker said. AMISOM said one soldier died and three
were others wounded.
The airport compound is a major base for African Union
peacekeepers and the surrounding area is considered one of the
safest parts of the city.
On Tuesday, al Shabaab branded Mohamud a "traitor" and vowed
to continue its jihad against a government it says serves only
Kenya sent troops into Somalia in November to help crush the
Islamist insurgency. Ongeri said Somalia could count on Kenya's
"The bomb blasts will change nothing at all. We are
determined. We are there for the course and until that course
has been achieved," Bogita Ongeri, a spokesman for Kenya Defence
Forces, told Reuters.