Mogadishu blast kills three government ministers

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An explosion that tore through a hotel in Somalia's lawless capital Mogadishu on Thursday killed three government ministers and at least one other person, witnesses and senior government sources said

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's Western-backed government is battling Islamist insurgents including the hardline al Shabaab group, which Washington accuses of being al-Qa'ida's proxy in the Horn of Africa state.

The source of Thursday's blast at the Shamo Hotel was not immediately clear, but witnesses said it appeared to be an attack targeting a graduation ceremony being held by Benadir University and attended by many government officials.

Senior government sources said Health Minister Qamar Aden Ali, Education Minister Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel and Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addow all died in the blast.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya Television said one of its cameramen, Hasan al-Zubair, had also been killed in the explosion.

The coastal city had been tense after supporters of the national police chief took to the streets in protest following rumours Ahmed planned to sack him.