A huge explosion from a truck bomb has killed at least 20 people in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, as shaken residents called it the most powerful blast they had heard in years.
The explosion appeared to target a hotel on a busy road in Hodan district and the death toll could rise, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said. Security forces had been trailing the truck after it raised suspicions, he said.
The blast occurred two days after the head of the US Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and two days after the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned.
It happened in the city’s K5 Junction which is lined with government offices, hotels, and restaurants, destroying several buildings and setting dozens of vehicles on fire.
“We know that at least 20 civilians are dead while dozens of others are wounded,” said Abdullahi Nur, a police officer who was in the area.
“The death toll will surely rise. We are still busy transporting casualties,” he said, adding that there were bodies under the rubble.
The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab recently stepped up attacks on army bases across south and central Somalia. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s blast, al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu with deadly bombings.
The US military has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, which is also fighting the Somali military and over 20,000 African Union forces in the country.