Mogadishu (TeleSUR– “In our 10-years experience as first responders in Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service posted on Twitter.

A car bomb killed at least 231 people and injured more than 300 in an attack outside a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, according to police officials and medical sources.

Scene of Car Bombing
Mogadishu, Somalia
Image: AFP

“There are more than 300 wounded, some of them seriously,” police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP. Officials say they expect the death toll to rise.

Following visits with hospital medical staff, Senator Abshir Ahbi Ahmed said the death toll is at 231, while medical personnel described horrific scenes of numerous bodies burnt beyond recognition.

“In our 10-years experience as first responders in Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin Ambulance service posted on their Twitter account.

Security official Mohamed Adan told AFP that the blast resulted from “a truck loaded with explosives.” Police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion appeared to target a hotel and reportedly destroyed several buildings and vehicles.

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President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has declared three days of mourning for the victims, calling on citizens to aid victims in any way they can.

“I call on our citizens to come out, extend help, donate blood and comfort the bereaved. Let’s get through this together,” Mohamed said.

A second attack took place in Madina district. “It was a car bomb. Two civilians were killed, ” Siyad Farah, a police official told Reuters. A gun battle between security forces and armed men followed the blast.

“The fighters first detonated a bomb outside the hotel’s gate, and then about four gunmen on foot gained entry into the hotel and started shooting at the patrons and also the security of the hotel,” Farah said, according to Al Jazeera.

“The hotel’s security staff, together with the police, are engaging in a gunfight inside and outside the hotel,” he added.

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“It was a normal day. Very quiet and not much work to do,” Abdulkadir Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, told Al Jazeera.

“All of a sudden, I heard a very big blast. Everything shook. I have never heard anything that loud before. Within a few minutes, the sky was covered with very dark smoke that covered even the sunlight,” he said.

The blast occurred two days after the head of the U.S. Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president.

The U.S. military recently increased drone strikes targeting the al-Shabaab group, which have increased attacks on army bases across south and central Somalia.

There have been no immediate claims of responsibility.

This post was originally written for and published by TeleSUR English.