Suicide attackers set off two car bombs at a hotel near the headquarters of Somalia's Criminal Investigations Department in Mogadishu on Friday, killing at least 17 people, police said.
Guards at Hotel Sahafi and CID officers opened fire after the blasts, police added. Then, about 20 minutes later, a third explosion hit the busy street, witnesses said.
"So far we have confirmed 17 civilians dead. They were travelling in public vehicles at the scene when the blasts and gunfire occurred. The death toll is sure to rise," Ali Nur, a police officer in the city, told Reuters.
A Reuters photographer at the scene saw 20 bodies of civilians and several burnt-out shells of mini-buses, motor-bikes and private saloon cars.
Mohammed Hussein, another police officer, had earlier told Reuters that the target of the attack was Hotel Sahafi, which is just opposite the CID office.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Islamists from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group have mounted regular attacks in the capital.
Smoke billows from the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu