Somali Security Minister Killed in Explosion

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - An explosion that witnesses said was caused by a suicide bomber killed at least 20 people Thursday in western Somalia, including the country's national security minister, medical and government officials said.

Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamud announced the death of National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden but declined to give any other details.

The explosion occurred in the town of Belet Weyne outside the Medina Hotel, which is frequented by Somali government officials, said hospital administrator Ahmed Ato. Witnesses told him the explosion was caused by a suicide bombing.

Witness Mohamed Nur said a small car headed toward the hotel's gate, drove into vehicles leaving the hotel and exploded.

Dr. Abdirahin Omar Amin of Belet Weyne Hospital said most of the dead were burnt beyond recognition.

Belet Weyne is the capital of the Hiran region and is close to the border with Ethiopia.

Somalia has not had an effective government for 18 years after warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and plunged the country into anarchy and chaos. The lawlessness has also allowed piracy to thrive off the country's coast, making Somalia the world's worst piracy hotspot.

Islamic insurgents have been trying to topple Somalia's weak, Western-backed government for more than two years. There was a surge of violence in May, during which almost 200 people were killed. The U.N. says the conflict has displaced more than 122,000 people.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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