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A soldier stands near wreakage

A Somali soldier stands near the wreckage from a car bomb blast and gun battle targeting a restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday, June 15, 2017. (Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP)

Deadly attack on Somalia restaurant in Mogadishu

Islamic extremists attacked a popular Somalia restaurant in an overnight siege and killed dozens of  people — many at point-blank range — before they were slain by security forces, police said Thursday.

Survivors described harrowing scenes of hiding under tables and behind curtains as the five gunmen hunted for victims in the darkened Pizza House restaurant. Nearly 40 people were wounded.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which began Wednesday evening with a car bomb exploding at the gate to the restaurant and ended when troops secured the site after dawn, said senior police Capt. Mohamed Hussein.

“I never thought I would have the chance to see the sun again. They were killing people on sight,” university student Saida Hussein told The Associated Press. She said she survived by hiding behind a large table.

Soldiers in gun-mounted vehicles surrounded the building, and troops later entered the ground floor as al-Shabab snipers defended their positions upstairs. The battle to end the siege was hampered by darkness, Hussein said.

The bodies of five girls believed to have been killed by the extremists were found in the restaurant, police said. The body of a Syrian man who worked as a chef lay near a blood-spattered and bullet-marked wall.

The car bomb that began the attack blew the roofs off the restaurant and other nearby buildings. Many of the first victims were young men who had been entering the Pizza House when the bomb went off, Hussein said.

The extremists, appearing to pose as security forces, then rushed inside the restaurant. (AP)

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