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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 November 2018

Somalia blasts leave dozens dead in Mogadishu

Twin car bombs exploded in the capital within moments of each other

Somali security officers attempt to secure the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. Reuters
Somali security officers attempt to secure the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia November 9, 2018. Reuters

At least 41 people were killed and more than 100 wounded on Friday in a string of explosions near a popular hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Police official Ibrahim Mohamed said information received from various hospitals indicated that the number of dead had reached 41, with another 106 wounded.

"Most of these people were civilians and nearly 20 of them died in minibuses that were passing by the road when the blast occurred," he said.

Twin car bombs exploded in the capital within moments of each other, followed by gunfire and a third blast, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the sky.

Mogadishu faces frequent bombings at the hands of Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate which has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed Somali government for more than a decade.

The blasts occurred near the Sahafi hotel and Criminal Investigation Division police headquarters.

"The target of the attack was the Sahafi hotel and even though the attackers used car bombs to make their way into the premises, the security forces stopped them," said Abdulahi Ahmed, a Somali security official.

"All of the four Shabab attackers were killed outside" the hotel building, he said.

Mr Mohamed said two blasts struck the perimeter of the Sahafi hotel along the main road. Witnesses said a third blast came from a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive vest at the hotel's front entrance, as three attackers in Somali military uniform were shot at the rear entrance.

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According to sources, the fatalities included the son of the owner of the hotel, Abdirashid Ilqeyte, who was killed in a Shabab attack on the establishment in November 2015.

The bombs destroyed parts of the hotel perimeter despite layered security, as well as shops and other buildings nearby.

Several passing minibuses and rickshaws were destroyed and their passengers killed or wounded.

"There was chaos after the blast. Some of the vehicles were buses, which caught fire. I could see people screaming as they fled the buses," said Fadumo Ali.

"This area is always dense and traffic jams are normal. This increased the casualties. Most of the dead and wounded were civilians," added Awil Mohamed, another witness.

Al Shabab said its fighters carried out the attack and some had managed to enter the hotel.

"Armed members from the Shabab Al Mujahideen carried out a complex attack targeting Sahafi hotel in Mogadishu where senior Somali government officials stay," the militant group said in a statement quoted by a pro-Shabab website.

"The attack was opened with a martyrdom car bomb blast and the fighters made their way into the building."

The Shabab were forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011.

But they still control parts of the countryside and attack government, military, and civilian targets, seemingly at will, in Mogadishu and towns in the region.