Mogadishu blast: 'Suicide attack' in Somali capital

Somali policemen inspect the scene of an explosion outside the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu (8 November 2013) The blast took place in a heavily secured area of Mogadishu

At least six people have been killed after a suspected suicide attack at a hotel in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled told the BBC that 15 people had been injured after a car exploded outside the Hotel Maka.

The hotel lies on one of the capital's main roads, which the authorities say is usually safe.

Islamist militant group al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu two years ago but often stages attacks in the city.

Wreckage

The BBC's Ibrahim Mohamed Adan in Mogadishu says a loud explosion was heard in the city's administrative centre just before 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

Map

The Hotel Maka is on the Maka Mukaramah road which links the presidential palace to the airport, one of the most heavily guarded areas of Mogadishu.

It is popular with members of parliament and other officials. One report stated that a senior Somali diplomat was among the dead.

Our reporter says witnesses nearby told him they could see the wreckage of a car burning outside the hotel.

Senior police officer Farah Aden told Reuters news agency that four policemen were among the six dead.

The agency reported that four cars and two motorbikes were burnt out at the scene.

A police officer told AFP news agency that he could see "several burning cars, dead and injured people on the ground" following the attack.

Witnesses told the BBC there were actually two explosions; the car bomb detonated after a smaller device planted in a laptop computer went off inside the hotel's reception area.

Football fever

The bombings came as Somalia's football season kicked off on Friday evening with a first division match at the newly refurbished Banadir Stadium in northern Mogadishu.

It was the first time in more than 22 years that thousands of fans had been to the stadium.

Correspondents say there was much excitement in the city in anticipation of the match at Banadir Stadium, which has Somalia's first artificial grass pitch.

Spectators watch the first soccer match of the Somalia Premier League between Heegan and Gaaddidka at the Banadir stadium in Mogadishu (8 November 2013) A Somalia Premier League match took place at Banadir Stadium on Friday evening

The Somali government is fighting al-Shabab, which is part of the al-Qaeda network, for control of the country.

The militants have been driven out of Somalia's major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force of some 18,000 soldiers, which is backing the government.

But the Islamist group still controls many towns and rural areas of southern Somalia.

In September, the group said it was behind the attack on the Westgate shopping centre in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in which at least 67 people died during a four-day siege.

Residents look at the scene of an explosion outside the Maka Al-Mukarama hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu (8 November 2013) Several vehicles were destroyed in the explosion

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