At least 17 people have been killed after three car bombs exploded outside a hotel in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu.

Police captain Mohamed Hussein said the blasts appeared to be have been caused by suicide bombs detonated near the perimeter wall of the Sahafi Hotel, which is across the street from the Somali national police force’s criminal investigations department.

Security forces shot dead four gunmen who tried to storm the hotel, he added.

“So far we have confirmed 17 civilians dead,” said police officer Ali Nur. “They were travelling in public vehicles at the scene when the blasts and gunfire occurred. The death toll is sure to rise.”

Witnesses reported seeing dozens of bodies in the street.

Pictures showed badly damaged buildings in the road where the bombs went off, as well as the burnt-out shells of mini-buses and cars.

A huge plume of smoke could be seen rising from the scene of the explosions.

Islamic extremist rebel group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to its Adalus radio station.

Mr Hussein said the gunmen tried to storm through a whole in the hotel wall but were shot before entering the building.

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