Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the bombs, according to the group's Adalus radio station.
The blasts occurred near the Sahafi hotel and Criminal Investigation Division (CID) police headquarters.
Four vehicle bombs by Islamic extremists exploded outside a hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 20 people and injuring 17, said police.
There are fears that the death toll will rise further.
Hotel guards and CID officers opened fire after the blasts, police added. A third explosion took place on the street minutes later, Reuters reported. The third auto was remotely detonated.
"We are getting (information that) about 20 people died in the attack and more than 40 others were wounded". Security forces shot dead four gunmen who tried to storm through a hole in the hotel's wall but did not succeed in entering.
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But Bashir Hassan Farah, another ambulance medic, later said he saw 20 dead bodies, majority civilians.
"The target of the attack was the Sahafi hotel and even though the attackers used vehicle bombs to make their way into the premises, the security forces stopped them", said Ahmed.
Abdiasisi Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, said the group had singled out the Sahafi for attack because of its association with the government the Islamists want to overthrow.
Al-Shabab said it targeted government officials staying at the hotel. They said the security forces eventually killed the assailants and rescued dozens of people from hotel rooms.
Somalia has been engulfed by violence and lawlessness since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in the early 1990s.
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