At least 20 people, including a Somali politician, were killed Saturday in a pair of car bomb explosions in Somalia's capital, two weeks after a huge bomb killed more than 350 people in the city.
Madobe Nunow, interior minister of Southwest state in Somalia, was among the dead, officials said. More than 40 people were injured in the two explosions in Mogadishu.
The first blast occurred at the popular Nasa Hablod Two hotel, which al-Shabab gunmen stormed after detonating a car filled with explosives at the hotel's gate.
Somali officials said at least three gunmen were still inside, exchanging gunfire with security forces.
Ayan abdi Ahmed, who was inside the hotel when the car bomb exploded, described the scene to VOA.
"After the bombing at the gate, I saw at least seven armed men dressed as government soldiers entering the hotel. They rushed to the second floor, where officials, including ministers and lawmakers, reside," Ahmed said. "The gunmen were shooting people one by one. I hid in a corner and fled from the hotel.
"It was a scary moment. I am glad I am safe, but a lot of people inside and outside of the hotel were killed. ... My driver was wounded and my car was damaged by the explosion," she said.
Ahmed said dozens of people were now trapped inside the hotel.
Reports said Abdinasir Garane Ahmed, a former lawmaker and a police commander, was among those killed at the hotel.
Abdikadir Abdirahman Adam, head of Amin Ambulance, told VOA that the company transported 17 wounded from the scene.
The Nasa Hablod Two hotel is near Somalia's presidential palace and is frequently used by Somali politicians.
The second car bomb exploded near the former parliament building, causing unknown damage.
Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack, saying they had targeted officials inside the hotel.
The attack came exactly two weeks after a huge truck blast killed at least 358 people at a busy Mogadishu intersection.
Somalia's government blamed the militant group for the October 14 attack, although al-Shabab did not claim responsibility for it.
Source: Voice of America