By Mohamed Odowa and Kristin Palitza, dpa
Mogadishu (dpa) - An al-Shabaab suicide bomber killed at least 15 people in a car bomb attack on a hotel popular with diplomats in Somalia's capital, security officials said Sunday.
The huge explosion that could be felt throughout Mogadishu destroyed entire parts of Jazeera Palace Hotel, located near several United Nations offices on the main road leading to the city's airport, said security official Mohamed Hassan.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud Sunday condemned the attack, calling it "a cowardly terrorist act."
The hotel regularly hosts foreign diplomats, including the Chinese and Qatar ambassadors to Somalia, as well as international aid workers, United Nations diplomats and government officials.
The blast also destroyed some 20 surrounding homes and shops, killing several civilians, according to Hassan.
"My sister, my brother and my child were killed when our house collapsed," resident Ahmed Nuur Ali told dpa. Several of his neighbours had been wounded, he said.
Among the dead was also a Somali television journalist, the local journalist union said.
Rescue workers were in the process of recovering the dead and injured from collapsed buildings on Sunday evening, while clouds of thick black smoke continued to engulf the neighbourhood long after the blast.
"It is not the first attack on Jazeera Palace hotel, but it seems the worst in terms of the scope of the explosion, destruction and the death toll," a Somali diplomat who stayed at the hotel but was unharmed told dpa on condition of anonymity.
Islamist militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility shortly after the explosion on pro-militant radio station Andalus.
The blast comes a day after the militants killed six people, including a parliamentarian and a senior government official, during two attacks in the capital.
Al-Shabaab regularly attacks government officials and civilians in Somalia and targeted Kenya since 2011, when Kenyan troops entered Somalia to help the government fight the group.