At least 20 people have been killed and 17 wounded in explosions followed by heavy gunfire in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, according to police.
Plumes of smoke billowed into the air on Friday as at least two car bombs went off near the popular Sahafi Hotel and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
Initially, “two blasts struck the perimeter of the Sahafi Hotel along the main road,” Ibrahim Mohamed, police official, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
A third explosion later hit the busy street, according to witnesses.
Although the attackers “failed to access the hotel, the blasts outside the hotel killed many people”, Mohamed Hussein, police captain, told The Associated Press news agency.
Some of the victims were burned beyond recognition when one car bomb exploded next to a minibus, police said.
“I’ve pulled many dead bodies from the cars,” Mohamed Aden, a witness of the attack, told Al Jazeera in Mogadishu.
“The number of casualties is unknown as bodies are still being pulled from the burning cars”.
“The street was crowded with people and cars, bodies were everywhere,” said Hussein Nur, a shopkeeper who suffered light shrapnel injuries on his right hand.
“Gunfire killed several people, too.”
Another police captain, Mohamed Ahmed, was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying 22 civilians were killed, along with six of the attackers.
“So, in total, 28 people died,” Ahmed said.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, according to its Adalus radio station.
The armed group has been carrying out frequent attacks in the Somali capital in its bid to topple the country’s internationally recognised government.