MOGADISHU: 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.
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.
It struck as people were eating lunch.
"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.
However, Mogadishu is regularly targeted by the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab insurgents, who have been fighting for over a decade to topple the government.
Shabaab fighters fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.
But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country, and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.