Somalia vehicle bomb attack leaves at least 20 dead, police say

GUNFIRE Guards at Hotel Sahafi and CID officers opened fire after the blasts

GUNFIRE Guards at Hotel Sahafi and CID officers opened fire after the blasts

Suicide attackers set off two vehicle bombs at a hotel near the headquarters of Somalia's Criminal Investigations Department in Mogadishu on Friday, killing at least 17 people, police said.

Reports say armed militants stormed the building guarded by armed officers after the first of at least three bomb blasts.

Among the dead was the manager of the Sahafi Hotel, whose father was the owner of the hotel before he was killed in an al-Shabab attack on establishment in 2015, said police Capt. Hussein. "Most of these people were civilians who were passing by the area when the attack occurred", Abdulahi Ahmed, a Somali security official, said.

Abdiaziz Ibrahim, a former spokesperson for the Internal Security Ministry, who was at the scene, told CNN the attacks lasted 20 minutes and happened "one after the other".

Two vehicle bombs exploded near the Sahafi Hotel and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on Friday afternoon, before a third bomb, placed in a three-wheeled "tuk-tuk", exploded on a busy street near the hotel.

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But Bashir Hassan Farah, another ambulance medic, later said he saw 20 dead bodies, a lot of them civilians.

"Although they failed to access the hotel, the blasts outside the hotel killed many people", said Hussein. "Most of the dead and wounded were civilians", added Awil Mohamed, another witness.

The militant Islamist group al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Hotel Sahafi, which is near the headquarters of Somalia's Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Al-Shabaab were forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011.

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