Car bomb leaves over 20 dead in Mogadishu - police, witnesses

The explosion occurred in a busy area prone to heavy traffic due to a security checkpoint and a taxation office.

FILR: Shells of vehicles burn outside the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu on 28 February 2019 after a car bomb exploded, killing at least five people and wounding 25 others. Witnesses described how the blast ripped through one of the busiest streets of the capital in the early evening, filled with people relaxing after a day at work. Picture: AFP

MOGADISHU - A massive car bomb exploded in a busy area of the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday, leaving more than 20 people dead, police and witnesses said.

"The blast was devastating, and I could confirm more than 20 civilians killed, there were many more wounded, but the toll can be higher," police officer Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP.

"I have counted twenty-two dead bodies, all of them civilians and there were more than thirty others wounded, this was dark day," said Ahmed Moalim Warsame, who witnessed the explosion.

The explosion occurred in a busy area prone to heavy traffic due to a security checkpoint and a taxation office.

"This was a devastating incident because there were many people including students in buses who were passing by the area when the blast occurred," said another witness Muhibo Ahmed.

Sakariye Abdukadir, who was near the area when the car bomb detonated, said the blast "destroyed several of my car windows."

"All I could see was scattered dead bodies... amid the blast and some of them burned beyond recognition."

Mogadishu is regularly hit by car bombs and attacks waged by Al-Shabaab Islamist militants allied to al-Qaeda.

The group was forced out of the Somali capital in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and has also staged attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Two weeks ago five people were killed when al-Shabaab attacked a Mogadishu hotel popular with politicians, army officers and diplomats in an hours-long siege.