At least 14 dead, several hurt in car bomb in Somali capital

At least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Most of the casualties were passers-by and traders, Hussein told The Associated Press. The toll of dead and wounded was announced by security ministry spokesman Abdulaziz Hildhiban.

Injured civilians, wounded during a car bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, March 22, 2018 are assisted. Somali officials say at least 14 people have been killed and others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu. Capt. Mohamed Hussein says the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah Road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

An injured civilian who was wounded during a car bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, March 22, 2018.  (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast. The group frequently attacks Mogadishu's high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country's deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. Al-Shabab was blamed.

Somalis help a wounded civilian after a car bomb exploded in Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, March 22, 2018. Somali officials say at least 14 people have been killed and others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu. Capt. Mohamed Hussein says the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah Road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Somalis help a wounded civilian after a car bomb exploded in Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, March 22, 2018.  (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Thursday's blast comes almost exactly a month after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu shattered a months-long period of calm in the city, killing at least 21 people.

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The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country's security to Somalia's own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.

Somalis stand outside a destroyed building after a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, March 22, 2018. Somali officials say at least 14 people have been killed and 10 others are wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu.(AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Somalis stand outside a destroyed building after a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, March 22, 2018.  (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

The U.S. military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.