TERRORISM

Chinese embassy security official killed in bomb attack in Somalia

Thirteen people killed when suicide bomber rams explosives-rigged truck into blast walls around Mogadishu hotel

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2015, 9:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2015, 8:33am

A Chinese security official at the country’s embassy in Somalia was one of 13 people killed when a suicide bomber rammed a truck rigged with explosives into the blast walls around one of Mogadishu’s most secure hotels on the weekend.

The attack on the Jazeera Palace Hotel on Sunday, claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group, wounded at least another 20 people.

The embassy was based inside the hotel and partially damaged in the blast, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.

A People’s Armed Police officer in charge of security was in the embassy when the attack took place, the statement said. He sustained severe injuries and died after he was taken to hospital. Three other members of staff had minor injuries, and the rest were evacuated from the hotel.

It is the first fatal attack on a Chinese diplomatic mission since the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by US jets in 1999.

The foreign ministry said China was deeply shocked by Sunday’s attack and strongly condemned it.

The embassy reopened late last year after closing in 1991 amid Somalia’s civil war. The ministry said it would step up security and  work closely with the Somali authorities to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in the country.

The hotel, considered the most secure in the city, houses several embassies and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor Barry Sautman, who studies Sino-African ties, said: “The hotel was protected by an extensive blast wall and the blast came from the street, yet there were many casualties and extensive damage, allowing al-Shabab to make the point that nowhere and no one is safe from the them.”

Al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab  said the blast was a response to “attacks and helicopter bombing against al-Shabab by AMISOM [the African Union Mission in Somalia] and the Somali government”.

Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union recently drove al-Shabab out of its last strongholds in Somalia.  

Sautman said that despite the fatal attack, China was unlikely to retreat from Somalia, the first East African country to recognise the People’s Republic and an advocate for its readmission to the United Nations in 1971.

“There is no indication that the attack specifically targeted Chinese diplomatic personnel,” he said.

The embassy would have to continue to work with the local authorities on piracy and the al-Shabab insurgency, and to address the everyday needs of Chinese nationals in the country, he said. Sautman said there  were thousands of Chinese involved in the manufacturing and construction sectors in Somalia.  

Additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press