Car bomb in Somalia kills more than a dozen

A group of civilians in rubble.
Citizens in the wake of the bomb. Photo credit: Reuters

A car bomb has exploded near a hotel and restaurants in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people in a busy area of the Somali capital, rescue services say.

The afternoon explosion sent smoke billowing into the sky and destroyed two restaurants and some cars parked in the area.

A Reuters witness counted six dead bodies on Thursday.

Amin Ambulance director Abdikadir Abdirahman said 15 people had died so far, including five women.

"Seventeen others were injured in the blast," he told Reuters.

Another witness at the scene said she saw 18 bodies.

"As a mother, it is shocking for me and I request those behind the explosions to stop. We are crying every day over dead bodies, and it is very hard for us to talk about," the resident, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters.

Police earlier gave a death toll of eight and said it may rise.

"The blast destroyed a restaurant and killed many who were inside and outside the restaurant," Major Mohamed Hussein told Reuters.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Al-Shabaab militants linked to al-Qaeda have in the past targeted the same location, the Wehliye Hotel.

On Saturday, 15 people died in two explosions and a gunfight between al-Shabaab militants and security personnel in Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab, which is trying to topple Somalia's western-backed central government, was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds.

But it remains a threat, with fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, whose troops form part of the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force that helps defend the central government.