Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Somalia bomb attack: 'Light turned to dark'

Somali students graduating (L) and the bombed out hotel in Mogadishu
A celebration turned into horror in moments at the Mogadishu ceremony

When a suicide attacker blew himself up at a graduation ceremony in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, the BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan was sitting just a few feet away. He describes the horror of what happened.

There were hundreds of people in the meeting hall - the students were all dressed in colourful uniforms for their graduation.

The hall had been brightly decorated, and there was a feeling of excitement - such ceremonies rarely happen in Mogadishu.

Ministers and various dignitaries were sat at the front of the hall and everyone else was sitting facing them.

Journalists were right at the front - I was sitting with my other BBC colleague in the second row, only about one metre away from the top table.

People were making speeches and we were taking notes, as usual.

Then all this brightness turned to darkness.

Shocking scenes

All I remember is being covered in dust. Everyone was covered in dust.

And there was no light anywhere.

I had to step over their bodies to get out

I looked across and the young guy sitting next to me was dead. I think he was a Somali journalist. I don't know. But he was dead.

I had to jump over him to get out.

I tried to get over the table where the ministers had been sitting. I had to step over their bodies to get out.

People were screaming: "Is it a bomb? Is it a bomb?"

I went through the door that the ministers had come through when they came into the hall and I hid in a small room. I think it was a toilet, I'm not sure.

I thought there would be more explosions or more attacks. I had no idea what had happened.

But I couldn't hear any more explosions and I had to go back into the hall to get out.

It was a shocking, terrible scene. There was blood splattered everywhere. I was really in disbelief, in shock. I have never seen so many people killed at the same time.

All these bodies were there, right in front of my eyes.

Rescue attempts

I looked at the roof to see if there had been some kind of rocket attack but the roof was okay.

So I knew something had exploded in the hall - either a suicide attack or a bomb or mine.

I went outside and the street was filled with people trying to rescue their friends and family.

No-one knew who had been killed and who had survived.

I could see my colleagues - journalists I had been talking to just before - lying on the ground covered in blood.

One colleague was right in front of me on his stomach. I couldn't tell whether he was alive or dead.

Another colleague was being carried out as local people began to arrive and help out.

It was a terrible few minutes. It's still impossible to understand how everything turned from colourful celebration to horror so quickly.

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