Somali Islamists claim Mogadishu hotel bombing

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Islamist militants in Somalia said on Thursday that they carried out the triple bombing on a Mogadishu hotel that killed at least 11 people.

Al Shabaab, who are battling African peacekeepers for control of territory in southern and central Somalia, said its bombers had targeted intelligence officials who were meeting at the Jazira hotel at the time.

"The apostates are the eyes and the ears of the invaders and these attacks serve as a well-deserved punishment for their role in guiding and assisting the invading forces in their crusade," al Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement.

Al Shabaab said it had killed more than a dozen people in Wednesday's attack. A private ambulance service director said his medics had recovered at least 11 bodies.

The assault on the Jazira hotel, one of the securest places in the coastal capital, underscored worries in neighboring countries and beyond that Somalia could slip back into anarchy if recent military gains against rebels are not consolidated.

An attack on a Kenyan shopping mall in September in which dozens of people were killed highlighted the militants' ability to strike beyond Somalia's borders.

Islamist suicide bombers struck the Jazira hotel in September 2012 as President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was giving a news conference just two days after his election by lawmakers.

(Reporting by Feisal Omar, Writing by Richard Lough)

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