MOGADISHU (Reuters) - At least five people were killed and several wounded when a car bomb planted by Islamist militant group al Shabaab exploded near restaurants on a busy street in the Somali capital on Wednesday.
Al Shabaab, which wants to topple the government it says is a puppet of Western powers, has frequently launched bomb and gun attacks in Mogadishu and promised more attacks after losing control of a major coastal stronghold this month.
"We heard a huge blast followed by gunfire," said Ahmed Idris who was near the Village Market restaurant close to the blast. A tea shop and a pharmacy bore the brunt of the damage.
Idris said several mortar shells landed in the area just before the blast.
Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi, a senior police officer, told Reuters five civilians were killed and seven wounded people were taken to hospital.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, said: "We were behind the blast at the tea shop. We targeted and killed many of the security officers and presidential palace workers who sit there."
The presidential palace is less than a kilometer away from the site of the blast.
Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack on the Oromo restaurant in which at least seven people were killed. Musab said it was "because it belonged to Ethiopia. Workers of the Ethiopian Embassy sat there."
Ethiopian troops are part of an African Union (AU) mission fighting al Shabaab inside Somalia. Al Shabaab aims to drive out the AU peacekeepers who provide the backbone of security as the Somali army is rebuilt.
Al Shabaab has been steadily driven out of towns in its heartland of south and central Somalia by a military offensive of African and Somali troops. On Oct. 5, the group lost control of Barawe port, which offered a conduit for arms imports.
Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Janet Lawrence