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Car Bomb Targets Turkish Delegation in Somalia

Somali government forces assess the scene of a suicide car explosion in front of the SYL hotel in the capital Mogadishu, Jan. 22, 2015.

A suicide car bomb exploded at the gate of a Mogadishu hotel where Turkish delegates were meeting on Thursday, a day ahead of a visit by their President Tayyip Erdogan to the Somali capital, police said.

At least two police officers were killed but none of the Turkish delegates were wounded in the attack which was claimed by Islamist al-Shabab rebels, said officials.

Erdogan would go ahead with his trip, a source at his office in Ankara told Reuters. Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said an investigation was under way to see if the delegation was deliberately targeted.

Al-Shabab, which has carried out attacks across east Africa including a 2013 raid on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed 67, claimed responsibility for the assault but did not mention the Turkish delegation or Erdogan.

“We attacked [the] hotel and killed several of the Somali police officers who were meeting there,” al-Shabab's military operation spokesman, Sheik Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters.

A Reuters witness saw two police officers lying dead in front of the destroyed gate, and what appeared to be the mangled body of the suicide bomber.

“The Turkish delegates are safe inside the hotel,” police captain Farah Nur told Reuters. “The hotel was busy.”

Erdogan became the first non-African leader to visit war-torn Somalia in nearly 20 years when he traveled there in 2011, as Turkey's prime minister.

Turkey is a key ally of the Somali government. It was a major contributor to the humanitarian aid effort at the height of the 2011 famine and Ankara continues to build hospitals and dispatch aid across Somalia.

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