Somali president resolute after al-Shabaab car bombing

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Somalia’s president vowed Saturday he would not halt efforts to restore peace and security to the country in the wake of a car bomb attack in central Mogadishu by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab rebels.

The huge blast on Friday evening outside a top hotel in Somalia’s capital killed at least four people, including a government official, and wounded 15, according to the government.

“I strongly condemn this heinous act of terrorism outside the Maka al Mukurama Hotel by al-Shabaab, which caused deaths and injuries to civilians,” Somalia’s internationally backed president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said in a statement.

“The aim of the attack was to terrorize people in order to stop the huge progress towards peace and stability in Somalia. We say out loudly to al-Shabaab that you will never stop us making huge progress towards peace and stability and good governance,” he added.

Officials said one of the country’s top diplomats -- Abdulkadir Ali Dhuub, a former acting ambassador to London -- was killed when the car bomb exploded outside the hotel, which is popular with officials and businessmen.

The statement from the presidency said another blast was averted, with a man carrying a “laptop and explosive items” apprehended while trying to set off a bomb inside the hotel at the same time as the car bomb.

Al-Shabaab militants have been pushed out of Mogadishu but still control large parts of the countryside and have continued to strike at the heart of the capital. In September the group also claimed responsibility for a massacre at an upmarket shopping center in the Kenyan capital Nairobi that left at least 67 dead.

The latest attack comes as the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, is asking the U.N. Security Council to green-light a boost in its numbers as part of efforts to step up offensive operations against the Al-Shabaab.

It also comes after a U.S. army drone strike on an al-Shabaab convoy last month that officials said killed the rebels’ top suicide bomb-maker.