At least five people have been killed by a homicide car bomber (search) who detonated a minibus at a checkpoint near a hotel once used by American contractors.

At least 12 people were injured at the site, which is frequently targeted by insurgents.

The blast, followed by bursts of automatic weapons fire, occurred near the Sadeer Hotel and the victims were believed to have been Iraqi private security guards employed by the hotel.

Moments after the blast, a large column of black smoke rose from the area.