Carrying the body of a civilian who was killed in the attack in Mogadishu, Somalia. (Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press)

Militants began an assault in the capital, Mogadishu, on Wednesday evening with a car bombing at the gates of a hotel popular with foreigners, and continued with gunfire at a nearby restaurant.

The Associated Press put the death toll at 31, citing local officials and the emergency services, an increase from an earlier estimate of 18 people. Special forces troops rescued more than 50 hostages, state news outlets reported.

The attack occurred less than a week after militants from the Shabab extremist group killed dozens of people — both soldiers and civilians, including children — when they stormed a military base in northeastern Somalia.

On their website, the Shabab took responsibility for the violence on Wednesday, which started at the Posh Hotel in central Mogadishu. After a car bomb exploded at the hotel’s gates, gunmen fanned out to the Pizza House restaurant.

Many people, including visitors from Ethiopia and Kenya, had been enjoying a night out.

“I saw several people lying on the ground,” said Yusuf Warsame, a freelance photojournalist who went to the scene. “I personally counted the dead bodies of six people, including a young woman.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Hussein Mohamed and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura

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