Massive bomb blast hits busy highway in Somali capital
A truck bomb at a hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Saturday has left at least 20 people dead and widespread devastation, 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," Ibrahim Mohammed, a senior police officer told AFP.
The bombing hit a busy part of the city, outside a hotel and beside a busy highway, government security official Mohamed Aden said.
"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-Qaeda aligned al-Shabaab carries out frequent bombings and other attacks in the government-controlled capital.
A thick cloud of smoke kicked up by the bomb could be witnessed across the city, with scenes of devastation at the nearby hotel and busy highway the blast took place.
"This was very horrible, the bomb went off alongside the busy road and left many people dead. I saw several dead bodies strewn about but could not count them," said witness Ismail Yusuf. "It was horrible."
Emergency services were overwhelmed as they sought to respond to the bombing.
"This was very horrible incident. The emergency team don't even know how many people they have collected because of the high number of the casualties," said Abdukadir Haji Aden, director of Mogadishu's main Amin Ambulance Service.
"They have collected tens of dead and injured and the work is still ongoing," he said.
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 blast happened near 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 the al-Shabaab has frequently attacked hotels where officials and foreigners stay.
In any case, the devastation caused was widespread. 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".
"There were dead bodies everywhere and injured people were screaming, some of them from under the rubble of destroyed buildings," said Fadumo Dahir, a witness.
"The whole area looks like a scene from a war," said Ahmed Bare, another witness.
Al-Shabaab was forced out of the capital six years ago by African Union and Somali troops, and subsequently lost control of major towns across southern Somalia.
Yet the al-Qaeda militia has launched attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia.
It has also launched raids in neighbouring Kenya.
Saturday's blast comes two days after Somalia's defence minister and army chief both resigned from their posts without explanation.