MOGADISHU • A truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at a busy junction in Somalia's capital Mogadishu yesterday, causing widespread devastation that left at least 20 dead, with the toll likely to rise.
"Initial reports from emergency departments indicate more than 20 bodies picked up off the street and many more are under the wreckage of buildings destroyed by the blast," said senior police officer Ibrahim Mohamed.
Government security official Mohamed Aden said the bombing took place in a busy part of the city.
"There was a huge blast caused by a truck loaded with explosives. It went off at the entrance of a hotel alongside the K5 intersection," he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Al-Shabaab militant group, aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out frequent suicide bombings in the capital and elsewhere as it fights to overthrow the internationally backed government.
About two hours later, a second blast took place in the city's Madina district. "It was a car bomb. Two civilians were killed," police major Siyad Farah said, adding that a suspect had been caught on suspicion of planting explosives.
Witnesses said the first blast, which threw a thick cloud of smoke into the sky that could be seen across the city, badly damaged a nearby hotel and left scenes of devastation on the busy road.
Emergency services were overwhelmed as they sought to respond to the bombing.
Dr Abdulkadir Haji Aden, director of Mogadishu's Amin Ambulance Service, said: "This was a very horrible incident. The emergency teams don't even know how many people they have collected because of the high number of the casualties.
"They have found tens of people dead and injured, and the work is still ongoing."
The so-called "Kilometre 5" junction is in the Hodan district, a bustling commercial part of the city with many shops, hotels and businesses. The explosion occurred outside the Safari Hotel, a popular place but not one that is commonly used by government officials. It is not known whether the hotel was the target on this occasion, but in the past, Al-Shabaab has frequently attacked hotels where officials stay.
In any case, the devastation caused was widespread.
Mr Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time, said: "(It was) the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area."
Another witness, Mr Ahmed Bare, said: "The whole area looks like a scene from a war."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS