Suicide Attack Kills Three Somali Ministers at Graduation Ceremony

December 3, 2009 Updated: December 3, 2009

A suicide bomber in women’s clothes killed at least 19 people in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Thursday, Dec 3. A loud explosion shook the hall of the Shamo Hotel, where medical students with their teachers and families attended a college graduation ceremony.

Three government ministers, as well as a number of journalists, doctors, and students were among the dead.

In an amateur video obtained by the media, the speech of a Somali official was suddenly interrupted by a large detonation. Seconds later, wounded people were climbing out of the ruined room with dead bodies and blood scattered on the floor.

“I condemn in the strongest terms possible this cowardly attack against civilians, including students, doctors, and journalists,” said EU foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton in a statement.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials said the suspicion falls on the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants from al-Shabaab. The rebel group fights the U.N.-backed government, which controls only a small part of Somalia.

The Islamist insurgent group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in June, when the national security minister died with at least 24 other people. Al-Shabaab, intending to impose their version of sharia (Islamic law) in the country, controls large parts of southern and central Somalia.

The east African country’s modern history is filled with violence and sorrow. In 1969, dictator Mohamed Siad Barre came to power by a coup. Backed up by his military junta, Barre tried to adapt scientific socialism in Somalia based on the Koran and the teachings of Karl Marx.

Resorting to persecution, jailing, and torture of political opponents, a U.N. report from 2001 described the Siad Barre regime as having “one of the worst human rights records in Africa.”

In 1991, warlords overthrew the rule of Barre, and since then several clans and militias have overseen government affairs. Over the last months, fighters linked to al-Qaeda have entered Somalia and attacks have grown more sophisticated and deadly, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The students present at the ceremony were graduating from Benadir University, which was established in 2002 with a single faculty of Medicine. According to their Web site, large numbers of qualified doctors fled from Somalia in search of better security or lost their lives during the civil war. Now, after years of studying, when they were finally prepared to serve Somalis, some of them were killed at the very start of their career.