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11 dead after blast outside restaurant in Somalia's capital

At least 11 people died when a bomb exploded on a busy street and ripped into a nearby restaurant in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Thursday, medics said. Security officials and witnesses reported bodies strewn on the ground as plumes of smoke rose high into the air after the bomb detonated on Mogadishu's Maka Al-Mukarama road, one of the seaside capital's main thoroughfares, an area busy with businesses and travellers.

An explosives-laden vehicle detonated outside a busy restaurant in Somalia's capital, killing at least 11 people, police said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press that the blast occurred as the restaurant in Mogadishu's Waberi district was crowded with diners.

At least 16 wounded people were taken to hospitals, the Aamin ambulance service said.

"The death toll we have confirmed so far is 11 people, with 16 others wounded," said Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan, director of the Aamin Ambulance service, adding that the toll could still rise. "There could be more losses."

Witnesses described scenes of devastation.

"The car bomb struck a restaurant along the road," said Abdulahi Osman, who was nearby to the explosion. "This really was a disaster."

Vehicles were tossed into the air by the blast, which also damaged nearby buildings. Witnesses said several cars and three-wheeler motorbikes were destroyed by the force of the explosion.

"I saw 16 people carried from the blast scene -- and more than 10 of them were already dead," Osman added.

Ambulance workers rushed in to help take the wounded to hospital.

"I don't know whether they were dead or wounded, but I could see several people strewn in the street -- some of them were motionless," said Suado Ahmed, another witness who was at the scene moments after the blast.

The bombing is the latest in a recent string of blasts in the capital, which has been hit regularly by Shabaab attacks.

"There was a heavy blast -- presumably caused by a vehicle loaded with explosives," said Adan Abdikadir, a government security officer.

There was no immediate claim of responsiblity for the bombing.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group often targets high-profile areas in Mogadishu with suicide bombings. Those often include security checkpoints, hotels and government offices.

The extremist group was chased out of the capital several years ago but continues to hold large parts of rural southern and central Somalia, taxing local people and travelers to fund its deadly quest to establish a state. It has thousands of fighters.

The United States military has dramatically increased the number of deadly airstrikes against al-Shabab since President Donald Trump took office. The U.S. is one of a number of actors fighting al-Shabab, including a multinational African Union force, Somali forces and Kenyan troops.

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