More than 10 people were killed and dozens more injured after three car bombs exploded near a hotel and a police headquarters in the Somalia capital Mogadishu on Friday, November 9.
Two car bombs detonated within moments of each other, followed by gunfire and a third blast some time later, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the sky, according to an AFP reporter.
The bombs exploded in the vicinity of the Sahafi Hotel and Criminal Investigation Division police headquarters.
Initial casualty tolls given by officials and witnesses varied widely.
“Two blasts struck the perimeter of the Sahafi Hotel along the main road … more than 10 people died, most of them civilians and some security guards,” said police official Ibrahim Mohamed.
Abdulahi Ahmed, a Somali security official, put the death toll much higher, saying: “We are getting [information that] about 20 people died in the attack and more than 40 others were wounded. Most of these people were civilians who were passing by the area when the attack occurred.”
Update November 10 Police official Ibrahim Mohamed said on Saturday that 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 added.
Another security official, Abdirahman Osman, told AFP that nearly 50 had been confirmed dead so far, although the final number was not yet known.
Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Local journalist Hassan Istiila tweeted that the first blast struck a perimeter wall of the Sahafi Hotel, the second exploded between the hotel and the CID and the third in a side street behind the hotel.
The nearby Hayat Hotel was also damaged by the explosions.
“We targeted it because it acts as government base. Government officials and security forces are always in the hotel,” Al-Shabaab spokesperson Abdiasisi Abu Musab, told Reuters.
Up to four al-Shabaab militants attempted to storm the hotel following the blasts but they were killed by security guards. VOA journalist Harun Maruf tweeted images showing two dead assailants who were wearing the uniforms of stabilization forces.
“Four militants who attempted to enter the hotel were shot dead by our police and the hotel guards,” police captain Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters. “Two other militants were suicide car bombers who were blown up by their car bombs. The third car was remotely detonated. So in total 28 people died, including the six militants.”
“I saw nine dead bodies along the road and they were civilians, some of them riding on rickshaws when the blasts occurred. Many more were wounded,” witness Abdirahman Suleyman told AFP.
According to Istiila and other journalists on the ground who tweeted graphic images, at least 15 people were killed.
Citing medical sources and police, Goobjoog News reported at least 18 people were killed and many more injured.
VOA Somali reported at least 23 people were killed.
The city’s Amin Ambulance service tweeted that they had taken 45 casualties to hospitals. The organization said its personnel had counted at least 10 dead bodies.
A fourth explosion was later reported but it is unclear whether this was related.
In November 2015, at least 14 people were killed in a similar al-Shabaab bomb and gun attack at the Sahafi Hotel. The hotel’s owner was killed in the 2015 attack, and his son was reportedly killed in Friday’s attack.
Mogadishu faces frequent bomb attacks carried out by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate which has fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia for over a decade.
Despite losing towns and territory in recent years the group continues to carry out regular bombings and armed raids on government, security and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere.
With reporting from AFP