At least 17 dead as three auto bombs explode in Somalia

Many 'killed' in Mogadishu bomb blasts

One of the bombed buildings in Mogadishu

Four auto bombs by Islamic extremists exploded outside a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 20 people and injuring 17, said police.

The hotel is near the headquarters of the Somali Police Force's Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Two auto 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.

An initial "two blasts struck the perimeter of the Sahafi hotel along the main road", said police official Ibrahim Mohamed, who earlier gave a preliminary toll of more than 10 dead.

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

Hussein Nur, a shopkeeper who suffered light shrapnel injuries on his right hand, said: "The street was crowded with people and cars, bodies were everywhere".

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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 Shabaab attack on the establishment in November 2015. They were traveling in public vehicles at the scene when the blasts and gunfire occurred.

"There was chaos after the blast".

A witness told Voice of America the front of the hotel building was destroyed in the attack.

"This area is always dense and traffic jams are normal".

The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting government officials at the hotel. These Shabaab assaults have forced African Union troops to withdraw from several cities and towns in southern Somalia.

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