A suspected car bomb attack outside a popular hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Friday evening killed at least six people and left the area covered with blood and burning vehicles, a senior police officer has said.
Mogadishu has often been the target of attacks by al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-aligned group that was driven out of the capital by African troops two years ago.
"We understand a car laden with explosives was parked in front of the hotel," Farah Aden, a senior police officer, told Reuters.
"This car bomb exploded and burnt the other cars which were also parked there."
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast.
"The target of the attack was apostate security forces and officials. The attack was successful," the group's spokesman for military operations, Sheikh Abulaziz Abu Muscab, told Al Jazeera.
'Enemies of peace'
The vehicle exploded next to Maka al-Mukarama hotel, and police immediately sealed off the area around the building, which is situated along a busy Mogadishu street.
Several cars and motorbikes were burnt out at the scene. A witness saw three bodies of police men being carried away and described bits of human flesh scattered in the area.
Four policemen were among the killed, while 15 other people were wounded, Aden said, adding, "The death toll may rise. There are serious injuries."
Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon released a statement denouncing the attack saying: "I condemn this attack in the strongest terms and send my condolences to the families and friends of all the innocent victims who were killed and wounded. Once again the enemies of peace show their true colours to the world."
He also added, "these cowardly acts of terrorism will not derail the progress made in Mogadishu and across Somalia. We – the Somali people and the Somali government – will stand shoulder to shoulder to defeat these killers. These terrorists will not defeat us but make us stronger".
Attacks in recent months targeting offices of the United Nations, restaurants and other sites highlight the challenge faced by the Somali government as it tries to rebuild the nation after two decades of conflict.
Al-Shabab have said they will keep up their campaign against the new government, after the armed group was driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force of peacekeepers.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies