MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamist extremists attacked a popular Somalia restaurant with a car bomb and siege that killed 31 people — many at point-blank range — before they were slain by security forces, police said Thursday.
Survivors described harrowing scenes of patrons 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 the car bomb exploding at the gate to the restaurant and ended when troops secured the site after dawn, said senior police Captain 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 survived by hiding behind a large table.
The bodies of five girls and a chef believed to have been killed by the extremists were found in the restaurant, police said.
The car bomb that began the attack blew the roofs off the restaurant and other nearby buildings. Many of the victims were young men who were entering when the bomb went off.