Al-Qaeda-linked group kills eight in Mogadishu, Somalia car bombings
At least eight people were killed when a car bomb rammed into one of Mogadishu's top hotels and a second vehicle exploded as the wounded were being treated.
A senior official of Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
"Yes, we did this. It was a sacred attack and hit its target. It is not the first and would not be the last," said Sheikh Ali Hussein, who is also known as Abu Jabal. "We are warning residents in Mogadishu to stay away from the areas of the infidels and so-called Somali government bases."
A booby-trapped car exploded outside the hotel Jazeera, near a United Nations complex, on Wednesday, police officer Muhidin Ahmed said. "It appears to be a suicide attack," he said. He was not immediately able to provide an accurate casualty toll for the first blast, but a witness spoke of at least five dead.
The second car bomb ripped through the blast scene as ambulances rushed to the scene and Somali soldiers were helping the wounded. "Another car loaded with explosives went off as security forces were trying to assist victims," police officer Mohamed Warsame said.
"I counted eight bodies, most of them soldiers," said witness Abdikarim Hassan.
The Jazeera hotel, near the international airport, is one of the seaside capital's most upmarket, and its clientele includes Somali politicians and visiting foreign officials. Eyewitnesses also reported an intense exchange of gunfire between assailants and security officers between the back-to-back blasts.
The attack was similar to others carried out by al-Shabab in Mogadishu, with a first car bomb smashing through the well-guarded gates of a target to let in a suicide commando and sometimes another explosives-laden vehicle. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a September massacre at a shopping mall in Kenya that left at least 67 people dead. The group said at the time the attack was retaliation for Kenya's military involvement in Somalia.
Additional reporting by McClatchy-Tribune