Mogadishu: (AFP) A suicide bomber killed at least eight people and severely wounded several more on Thursday in a restaurant in the centre of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, witnesses said.
The attack, the latest in the war-ravaged city where Al Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents have vowed to topple the government, was one of the first to target several new upmarket restaurants recently set up by the Somali diaspora.
"I saw eight people killed in the blast, and around them there were many wounded, many of them with severe wounds," said Hassan Ibrahim Abdullahi, who was in the restaurant at the time.
Those killed included two journalists working for Somalia's national television station, witnesses added.
Others said they feared the death toll could rise further, after the critically wounded were taken to hospital.
"There was a loud explosion, there were at least eight killed, and there were two more that were rushed to hospital who looked like they would not survive," said Ali Mohammed Yassin, another diner in the restaurant.
The bomber targeted the Village Restaurant, run by Somalis who had returned to their country from Britain, an eatery popular with other influential Somalis as well as the few foreigners living in the city.
The restaurant is opposite the National Theatre, and about a kilometre from the presidential palace. Often hailed as a symbol of revival for Mogadishu, set up following the Shebab's pullout of fixed positions in the city last year.
After over two decades of anarchy and war, the seaside city has seen modest improvements since the Shebab left frontline fighting positions, with a boom in building and businesses.
However, the hardline fighters switched to guerrilla attacks in Mogadishu -- including suicide bombings -- and remain a potent threat.
Last week they launched a failed assassination bid against the newly elected president, killing three soldiers.
Shebab officials said they would issue a statement concerning the attack, but did not claim or deny that they were responsible.
The attack comes as the Shebab face growing pressure on the last major city they hold -- the southern port of Kismayo -- where Kenyan troops with the African Union force alongside Somali militia gunmen are battling towards.
The key Shebab-held towns of Afgoye, Baidoa and the port of Marka have all fallen in recent months, with the militants largely retreating ahead of assault.