At least six people were killed after a suicide car bomber targeted a popular restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday evening, security officials said.
“The suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives into the building,” said Ali Mohamed, a police official, identifying the target as the Posh Treats restaurant.
Security official Abukar Mohamed said there were “six people killed and several wounded” adding that the operation to clear the building was ongoing late Wednesday night with security forces having cordoned off the area.
Witness Abas Ahmed, who was at another nearby restaurant when the explosion happened, described seeing “the dead bodies of several people and others who were injured.”
The Shabaab, an al-Qaeda aligned militant group that launches regular suicide attacks in the capital against civilian, government and military targets, claimed responsibility for the bombing via its Radio Andalus broadcaster and said that its gunmen had afterwards stormed the restaurant compound.
Islamist attacks often increase in tempo during Ramadan and Wednesday’s bombing came in the evening after the breaking of the fast when mosques and restaurants are busy.
Posh Treats, a relatively new restaurant in an affluent part of the capital, is particularly popular with young and diaspora Somalis.
The Shabaab has been fighting for the last decade to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Mogadishu and has also launched attacks in Kenya and Uganda, both contributors to a 22,000-strong African Union force in the country.
Although pushed out of the capital in 2011 the group still controls parts of the countryside where a drought threatens to tip into famine this year.