Somalia: Tributes to minister killed in al-Shabab hotel attack

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Media captionMilitants from the Islamist group al-Shabab are thought to have used a car bomb to blast their way into the hotel

Tributes have been paid to a Somali minister who was among those killed in an attack by the Islamist group al-Shabab on a popular hotel in Mogadishu.

Militants detonated a car bomb outside the Naso-Hablod hotel, before storming it and taking hostages on Saturday.

The UN envoy in Somalia described Environment Minister Buri Mohamed Hamza as "passionate advocate". He was among at least 15 people killed at the hotel.

Al-Shabab launches frequent attacks in a bid to oust the UN-backed government.

Witnesses said the militants shot randomly at guests in the hotel, often used by politicians and tourists.

A gun battle then erupted between Somali forces and the attackers.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Building was badly damaged after the car bomb explosion
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Security forces and attackers fought a gun battle
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Blast damaged cars and buildings nearby

Michael Keating, the UN special representative in Somalia, condemned the "atrocious attack".

"The death of minister Hamza is very saddening. He was a passionate advocate for Somalia's natural environment and was fighting against its degradation," he said.

Tributes were also paid by Somalia's foreign ministry.

Image copyright Twitter - @MofaSomalia

Among the dead were also some of the attackers, security guards and civilians, including women who were working outside the hotel, officials said.

Police said at least four men were involved in the assault.

Al-Shabab said it targeted the hotel "frequented by the apostate government members", Reuters news agency reported.

Earlier this month at least 10 people were killed and 50 injured in an attack on another hotel in the Somali capital, which was claimed by al-Shabab.

The al-Qaeda-linked group was driven from Mogadishu in 2011 but still remains a threat and frequently carries out attacks in the city.

The government, with the help of African Union forces, is fighting al-Shabab militants in several parts of the country.

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