Blast Kills Dozens at Graduation Ceremony in Somalia

Three government ministers were among at least 19 people killed in a suicide-bomb attack on a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, during a university graduation ceremony, the African Union Mission in Somalia said.

The explosion occurred this morning at the Shamo Hotel in the south of the city where medical students from Benadir University had gathered, the mission, known as Amisom, said in an e-mailed statement today from Nairobi in neighboring Kenya. The bombing was carried out by "armed opposition groups," it said, without elaborating.

Somalia’s Western-backed government has been battling Islamist insurgents, including al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam, for the past two years. The rebels control most of southern and central Somalia. The country hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of the former dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, in 1991, Bloomberg reports.

The attack raised further doubts about the ability of the moderate Islamic government to achieve even a modicum of stability. It also increased fears that militants had sympathizers within security agencies.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told reporters the "idea behind this blast came from a foreign ideology, not from Somali people. This blast doesn't deter our operations, and we will continue to stabilize our country, but I call on the international community to support our administration in order to overcome all these obstacles."

The African Union, which has more than 5,000 peacekeepers in Somalia, condemned the attack: "Such an inhumane and cowardly act aimed at stalling the peace process will not deter the resolve and determination of the African Union to support the people of Somalia in their quest for peace and reconciliation," The Los Angeles Times informs.

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