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Explosions hit checkpoint near international airport in Somalia

Two suicide car bombs detonated at a checkpoint near Mogadishu's international airport, close to the African Union's main base. The extremist al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two suicide car bombers detonated at a checkpoint near Mogadishu's international airport on Monday, police and witnesses said.

The first explosives-laden vehicle exploded as security forces were searching cars at the checkpoint, Captain Mohamed Hussein told the Associated Press. The checkpoint is located near the main headquarters of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The first blast enabled a second explosives-laden vehicle to pass through the checkpoint, at which point African Union troops engaged with gunfire and the vehicle exploded, AMISOM wrote on Twitter.

The second, more powerful blast destroyed part of the nearby Peace Hotel, which is also located near United Nations offices and the airport.

"The drivers ... were trying to move into the Peace Hotel, which is popular with Westerners and African Union and government officials," senior police officer Ali Hassan Kulmiye told news agency DPA.

At least three security forces died in the attack, another Somali police officer told Reuters. He added that the death toll is likely to rise due to the intensity of the blasts.

Images of a huge column of smoke rising from the area circulated on social media. The powerful blast ripped roofs off nearby buildings.

The Islamic extremist al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for the bombings through its radio arm, Andalus.

Somalia's capital has seen a spate of bomb attacks at hotels and military checkpoints. In July, two suicide car bomb attacks killed 13 people when the bombers detonated outside the office of the UN's mine-clearing agency and an army checkpoint near the African Union's main base.

The country's presidential election has been delayed multiple times due to security and other concerns.

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Presidential candidate: Situation in Somalia 'grave and worrisome'

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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