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

The blast occurred near the headquarters of Somalia's Criminal Investigations Department

No group immediately claimed responsibility but Islamists from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group have mounted regular attacks in the capital.

Twin auto 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, according to an AFP reporter.

Guards at Hotel Sahafi and the CID headquarters opened fire following the first two 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.

"We have confirmed 39 civilians died and 40 others were injured in yesterday's blasts", Mohamed Hussein, a police officer in the city told the Reuters news agency.

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There are fears that the death toll will rise further.

"Four militants who attempted to enter the hotel were shot dead by our police and the hotel guards", police captain Mohamed Ahmed told Reuters.

A witness who was inside the hotel at the time said on condition of anonymity that the front of the building was destroyed by the force of the explosions, which blew out windows. The third vehicle was remotely detonated.

The attack took place near the Sahafi Hotel and Criminal Investigation Division (CID) police headquarters.

But Bashir Hassan Farah, another ambulance medic, later said he saw 20 dead bodies, a lot of them civilians. "Abdifatah Abdirashid, the hotel owner, and three of his bodyguards died", Abdiqani said. They said the security forces eventually killed the assailants and rescued dozens of people from hotel rooms.

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