At least 19 people were killed and 23 wounded Monday in suicide car bomb attack that took place near a checkpoint close to Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport, police told Efe.

The attack, which caused a huge blast and a large column of black smoke, occurred between the Afrik hotel, which was damaged, and a checkpoint on the K-4 road leading to the Somalian capital’s airport.

Police officer Ali Wiirow, who is 1.2 km away from the scene, told Efe that he had witnessed the attack which occurred in a crowded area and that he saw 11 corpses.

Five of the security force members were killed in the attack, including the one in charge of the checkpoint, Hussein Aanka, who belonged to Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency.

Wiirow said 23 people had been injured, revising previous figures 15 that had been passed on to Efe earlier by Mohamed Abshir - who works at the Barwaaqo hospital near to the K-4.

Security forces set a cordon around the attacked area, where several vehicles lined up to get through the checkpoint was damaged, Efe verified.

Near the airport there is the so-called Mogadishu green zone, where many embassies, the United Nations personnel and the African Nation’s mission to Somalia among others are located.

Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which frequently carries out attacks in the unstable nation, claimed the attack and said its target had been the international airport.

One of the most recent and deadly attacks by al-Shabaab took place in the southern coastal city of Kismayo where at least 26 people were killed, including a US citizen, a Briton and a Canadian, while 50 others were injured on July 12.

Al-Shabaab pledged allegiance to al-Qaida in 2012 and seeks to establish an Islamic State in Somalia.

Somalia has been in a state of war and upheaval since 1991, when former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown, leaving the country without an effective government and vulnerable to Islamic radical militants, warlords and criminal armed groups. EFE-EPA