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Somalia's terror attack: Hope among debris

By HOU LIQIANG in Mogadishu, Somali | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2015-07-30 10:31

After waiting for about one day, we finally got permission to visit the Jazeera Palace Hotel, which an attacker drove a car rigged with bombs into and set off an explosion, killing at least 15, including a member of Chinese embassy's security staff, and injuring several dozen.

As expected, it's still in chaos, with debris everywhere. Almost the whole wall of one side of the hotel has caved in, leaving only the pillars standing with steel bars, wires and plate metals exposed. Some rags are hung on whatever remains of the wall, and they sway in the wind. The blast was so powerful that the windows on the top floor on the other side of the hotel broke, let alone the windows near the impact.

But it's not just this property that was affected by the explosion. Opposite the hotel, scattered among debris of concrete and metal objects, pieces of iron sheets lying on the ground as if hand-rubbed paper thrown there. There were even two wheel hubs on the ground, which many people said were left there from the exploded vehicle used by the attacker. A rooftop made of iron sheets, which is about 100 meters away, looks as if it had been trampled by a group of overweight people.

Abdimunim Moalim, operation manager of Jazeera Palace Hotel, told me that it was the village near the hotel "where the normal people were living" that sustained the most damage.

This doesn't mean that it will be a horrible and quiet place. It seems like there is a show just on the road beside the hotel, with many armed men walking past in various uniforms or civilian clothes in groups. Some were passing by in pickups, waving or giving a thumb-up gesture to me. There were also some standing or sitting there with cool sunglasses. Accompanying the show, however, is not music but the relentless noise of operating machines. You just have to shout when you want to talk to people, even if they are right next to you.

Behind a temporary wall, which is as tall as the first floor of the hotel, workers have been busy working, removing debris in the hotel, digging, moving bags of cement and steel bars. They have changed the site of the terrorist attack into a dynamic and busy construction site.

"This explosion has happened. It's supposed to damage our business. But I tell you we will come up much stronger than ever before and return operations to normal as soon as possible," said Moalim. One of the journalists in our team told me that Moalim even invited her to stay in the hotel for no charge.

We entered the hotel walking through the place where the wall should be and I saw dozens of bags of cement piled up there. The canteen on the ground floor, which was far away from the explosion site and sustained little damage, still had four or five customers, including two officers, who were probably drinking something at two tables.

There outside the canteen, I saw Ali Mohamed Ahmed, a student who lives in the nearby village Kaluunka and was hanging around the hotel then. The 15-year-old was playing football with 11 of his buddies when the attack happened.

The boy was eager to talk but spoke very broken English. With the noise of the construction site obscuring what he said, I was only able to hear one sentence clearly:"When I grow up, I want to protect my country."

What the boy said just makes me feel hopeful for terrorism-stricken country. Yes, more youth like Ahmed, who see the damage terrorism causes their country, will grow up and shoulder the responsibility to prevent terrorist attacks from happening.

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