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Police: 2 car bombs explode in Somali capital

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 1, 2014 at 2:32 p.m.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Two car bombs exploded on Wednesday night outside a hotel in Somalia's capital that often is used by foreigners and government officials, wounding at least two people, police said.

Police officer Ahmed Ali, who gave the preliminary casualty figures, said it wasn't immediately known who was responsible for the blasts outside the Jazeera Hotel near Mogadishu's international airport. After the bombs went off, hotel guards and soldiers manning nearby checkpoints shot in the air, said witness Yasin Haji.

The al-Qaida-linked Islamic rebels of al-Shabab frequently stage lethal attacks in Somalia near the seat of government and at sites popular with foreigners.

In a radio message Tuesday, a senior al-Shabab commander warned civilians to stay away from government buildings as well as sites controlled or owned by foreigners. The commander, Ali Mohammed Hussein, said attacks were imminent in Mogadishu.

The Jazeera Hotel has been the target of previous terrorist attacks. In September 2012, it was the scene of an assassination attempt on Somalia's president on his second day in office.

Al-Shabab once controlled Mogadishu, but it was ousted from the capital in August 2011. Despite some security gains made in Mogadishu over the years, the militants still penetrate the seaside capital to carry out suicide attacks.

Neighboring Kenya has been the scene of multiple terrorist attacks since the country sent its military to Somalia in 2011 to fight al-Shabab. In September, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people. Al-Shabab said it was in retribution for Kenya's involvement in Somalia.

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