Al Shabaab claims responsibility for deadly car bombing in Somali capital

Al Qaeda-linked militant group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility Tuesday for a car bomb that ripped through a restaurant in Somalia’s capital, killing at least nine people.

In addition to the deaths, at least eight people were wounded in the attack in Mogadishu, police officer Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press.

"We are behind the attack," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, told Reuters.

Musab said the lunch-time attack was directed at officials from government ministries and the presidential palace who frequent the restaurant.

Security forces secured the area around the Banoda restaurant after the attack, said another senior police officer Mohamed Abdi. The car with the bomb had been parked near Somalia's heavily guarded presidential palace when it exploded, he said.

Al Shabaab appears to be stepping up attacks in Somalia and across borders even as it loses ground inside Somalia.

At least seven people were killed Monday when a bomb planted in a U.N. van exploded in the northern area of Puntland, a semiautonomous region that is normally peaceful. Four U.N. staff working to help Somali children were among those killed in that attack, the U.N. children's agency announced Tuesday.

Despite losing some of its top leaders in U.S. air strikes and being pushed by African Union forces out of the capital, Mogadishu, and into rural regions mostly in southern Somalia, Al Shabaab is still able to carry out deadly bombings against government targets and public places seen as popular with foreigners.

The extremists have also attacked neighboring Kenya, which has sent troops to Somalia to fight the insurgents. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack earlier this month at Garissa University College in eastern Kenya in which at least 148 people, most of them students, were killed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.