MOGADISHU - At least 12 people were killed Friday in an attack in the heart of the Somali capital Mogadishu that was claimed by Islamist Shebab militants, a police official said.

"One of the blasts took place near the Peace Gardens (park) and the other near the SYL hotel. I saw 12 dead civilians, but the toll may well be higher," Ibrahim Mohamed said. Two loud explosions rocked the centre of Mogadishu on Friday followed by automatic gunfire, police and an AFP correspondent said, with Somalia's Shebab Islamists claiming they had attacked a hotel. "We heard a loud explosion near the SYL hotel," police official Mohamad Adan told AFP, saying there was also gunfire. The first blast took place at 7:45 pm (1645 GMT), with a second erupting shortly afterwards in an attack which was claimed by the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab movement. "Members of the mujahedeen have carried out an attack on the SYL hotel near the presidential palace. The attack began with a suicide bombing followed by gunfire," the group said in a brief statement on its official Instagram account.