Auto bomb explosion outside hotel in Somalia

ATTENTION EDITORS- VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH An injured person is evacuated from the scene where a suicide car bomb exploded targeting a Mogadishu hotel in a business center in Maka Al Mukaram street in Mogadishu Somalia. February 28

ATTENTION EDITORS- VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH An injured person is evacuated from the scene where a suicide car bomb exploded targeting a Mogadishu hotel in a business center in Maka Al Mukaram street in Mogadishu Somalia. February 28

Islamist al Shabaab fighters set off an explosive outside the Hotel Maka Al-Mukarama late on Thursday, leaving rescuers to dig through the rubble.

A gun battle raged in Mogadishu on Friday between Somali soldiers and Al Shabaab fighters, holed up in a building next to a hotel they had hit with a suicide vehicle bomb the previous evening. It took place in a business center in Maka Al Mukaram street which has hotels, shops and restaurants, Police Major Mohamed Hussein told Reuters.

The three blasts "killed at least 30 people and injured dozens more in Mogadishu, and there are fears the toll could rise", said Farah, speaking to CNN by phone from the scene.

The hotel advertises the security of its area as a selling point for guests, who include many government officials, making it an inviting high-profile target for the jihadis. "We are still inside it", Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab's military spokesman, said.

The Al-Qaeda linked terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a long line in the capital as they try to oust the government.

Somalia's security forces are battling gunmen holed up in a building in Mogadishu, hours after a suicide auto bomb attack on a busy street left at least seven people dead.

"There are no civilian casualties in this building".

And by Friday afternoon, they said the toll had climbed significantly.

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US airstrikes have killed another 26 members of the al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia, officials said on Friday, in a continuation of recent attacks that had already killed 55 earlier this week.

Soldiers manned roadblocks around the site during the fighting and fired into the air to keep back relatives who shouted out the names of missing loved ones.

The explosion took place by the busy Makka Al-Mukarama road during the evening rush hour.

Under U.S. President Donald Trump, Washington has stepped up attacks against the group, and U.S. Africa Command announced six air strikes that it said had killed 52 militants since February 23.

Somalia has been convulsed by lawlessness and violence since 1991, and al Shabaab is fighting to dislodge a Western-backed government protected by African Union-mandated peacekeepers.

At least 25 people have been killed this week in clashes between the two militant groups, a military official from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland told Reuters. I have just seen them in hospital.

The group, which claimed the deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in the capital of neighbouring Kenya last month, was also behind the deadliest attack in Somalia's history, a massive truck bombing that killed well over 500 people in Mogadishu in October 2017. "My husband lost his stomach and my brother suffered severe wounds to both arms", Halima Omar, a mother of three children told Reuters.

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