Three Somali ministers among 19 dead in suicide blast
More than 60 people were injured in the blast, some of them seriously.
Several ministers from the UN-backed government were attending the ceremony when the explosion went off. Most of the victims were students.
Somali president Sharif Sheik Ahmed accused the Al-Qaeda inspired insurgents of being behind the attack and called for urgent international help.
“We denounce in the strongest terms the blast which was carried out by the armed rebels fighting the government,” Sharif told a press conference at his palace.
“We cannot tackle those violent elements alone and we call on the international community to rush to help us fight them,” he said.
A hotel security official said the suicide bomber was probably among the students. The head of an NGO operating in Mogadishu said the bomber was dressed as a woman.
Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addow and Health Minister Qamar Aden were killed on the spot and Education Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Waayel died shortly after the blast, a senior government official said.
Sports Minister Suleyman Olad Roble was among the injured.
Two journalists, one from Shabele Radio and another from Al Arabiya television, and a doctor were also killed, a source at the hotel said.
An AFP photographer sustained slight injuries.
“We were waiting outside the conference room when there was a huge explosion. I found myself on the ground in the middle of the smoke and screaming,” he said.
“I went to get my camera, and that’s when I saw the bodies of the three ministers.”
Abdiweli Mohamed, whose brother was among the dead, said: “Today everybody in the university is crying, no one expected that such tragedy would follow the graduation ceremony.”
A joint statement from the European Union, the InterGovernmental Authority on Development, a regional body, the League of Arab States, the UN and the United States condemned the attack as “cowardly acts of terrorism”.
“The horrific attack is another demonstration of the extremists’ complete disregard for human life. The fact this bombing targeted graduating medical students – the future doctors of Somalia – is particularly egregious,” the statement said.
The Somali insurgents launched a fresh offensive against the transitional government on May 7 and clashes since then have left more than 250 dead while an estimated 120,000 people have fled the capital.
The Shebab militia have vowed to bring down the government and force all African Union peacekeepers out of the country.
Somalia has had no effective government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was forced out of power in the early 1990s.
Thousands have been killed in Mogadishu in recent years as Islamists battle for control of the capital.
The Islamists control large swathes of Mogadishu as well as much of the centre and south of the country.
The transitional government only exists with the backing of the 5,000 AU peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda.
At least 60 peacekeepers have been killed since they were deployed in March 2007 to protect strategic sites in the seaside city.