Not less than 20 people have died in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, after a huge explosion from a truck bomb rocked the city.
Police described the bomb attack as the most powerful blast in many years.
Terrorists who carried out the massacre are believed to have targeted a luxury hotel located on a busy road in Hodan district, police said.
A large number of people remained trapped in the rubble of the Safari Hotel long after the blast. The building was largely destroyed. Police captain Mohamed Hussein said at least 15 persons were confirmed dead.
‘Security forces suspected the bomb-laden truck and followed its trails before the bloody incident,’ Mr. Hussein added.
According to a report from Al Jazeera, the bombing occurred at the central K5 Junction, very close to a cluster of government offices, hotels and restaurants. Several buildings and dozens of vehicles were also destroyed.
The hotel is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry.
No terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack although al-Shabab is suspected after its recent attacks on army bases in the central and southern parts of Somalia.
‘We are sure that at least 20 civilians died in the blast and a lot others were wounded,’ Abdullahi Nur, a police officer who was around the location, told Reuters in an interview.
Rescue workers were seen at the scene shortly afterward. Ambulance sirens wailed continuously across the capital which has been under tight security with military manned checkpoints.
Gunshots were fired at the site. Body parts, blood-drenched slippers, clothes, shoes and shattered window glasses were seen around the scene. Burning cars, overturned vehicles and a large plume of smoke filled the busy intersection, leading to traffic jam on nearby roads.
‘There was a traffic jam and the road was packed with bystanders and cars,’ said Abdinur Abdulle, a waiter at a restaurant, was quoted by The Associated Press. ‘It’s a disaster.’
Sadly, the blast occurred barely two days after the head of the U.S. Africa Command visited Mogadishu for a meeting with Somalia’s president. Coincidentally, the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons on the same day.
‘I believe the death toll will rise. So many casualties are being transported for emergency treatments,’ Nur added. ‘There are still more people in the rubble.’
Mohamed Adow, a reporter for Al Jazeera who resides in Doha, said the rebels first detonated a bomb outside the hotel’s gate, and then about four gunmen on foot gained entry into the hotel and started shooting at the patrons and hotel security.”
Adow added that the hotel’s security staff, together with the police, are in a gun fight inside and outside the hotel.