MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a security checkpoint near Mogadishu's international airport Monday, killing at least three people, a Somali police officer said.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the bomb detonated as security forces were searching cars at the checkpoint, a few hundred meters (yards) from the main base of the African Union peacekeeping mission.
The checkpoint is close to United Nations offices and the Peace Hotel, which is often frequented by foreigners and officials. The powerful blast blew roofs off nearby buildings.
A second blast and heavy gunfire could be heard shortly afterward.
The first blast destroyed the checkpoint run by the Somali national security forces, the African Union mission said on Twitter. The explosion allowed a second bomb-laden vehicle to pass, but AU forces "engaged" it and it exploded about 200 meters from Medina Gate, the AU mission said.
The al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which often carries out such attacks, quickly claimed responsibility for Monday's attack through its radio arm, Andalus.
Despite being ousted from most of its key strongholds across large parts of south and central Somalia, the homegrown group continues to wage deadly attacks across the country.
Somalia's capital has seen frequent bomb attacks at hotels and military checkpoints. In July, two al-Shabab suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden cars outside the office of the U.N.'s mine-clearing agency and an army checkpoint near the African Union's main base, killing 13. The site of the attack was near the site of Monday's blasts.
The assaults have threatened this Horn of Africa nation's attempts to rebuild from decades of chaos. The country's presidential election, a key step toward recovery, already has been delayed multiple times because of security and other concerns.