A suicide car bomb exploded outside a popular hotel close to the presidential palace in Somalia?s capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, in an attack claimed by Shabaab jihadists.
?There was a blast close to the SYL hotel area, near the main checkpoint of the presidential palace,? said security officer Ibrahim Mohamed.
A witness described seeing a huge blast and a thick plume of smoke that rose high into the air.
?I saw a car speeding towards the area and huge smoke and fire went up in the sky,? said Elmi Ahmed.
An AFP journalist at the scene saw two bodies on the street but there was no official death toll.
The journalist described widespread damage to buildings in the area, but reported no gunfire immediately after the explosion.
The Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab jihadists claimed responsibility for the attack saying they targeted the SYL hotel because it ?is close to the presidential palace, and also home to apostates and unbelievers.?
The hotel was previously attacked in both February this year and January last year.
The January 2015 attack killed at least five people when a suicide car bomber rammed the hotel gates on the eve of a visit by Turkey?s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In February this year 14 people were killed when twin blasts were triggered close to the hotel and the neighbouring Peace Garden on a busy Friday afternoon.
Both previous attacks were also claimed by the Shabaab, which quit the capital five years ago but continues to launch attacks against government, military, civilian and foreign targets in its fight to overthrow the internationally-backed government.
The group is expected to try and violently disrupt elections due to be held in September and October.
The jihadists have also staged repeated attacks in neighbouring Kenya and a recent security analysis warned the group was expanding its horizons with cells active in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as Somalia.