A suicide car bombing by Al-Shabaab militants on two neighbouring restaurants in Somalia's capital Mogadishu killed 18 persons. Later reports said gunmen were killed by security forces.
The attack began around 8 pm on Wednesday evening with a suicide car bombing at the Post Treats restaurant and club, after which gunmen stormed inside the nearby Pizza House restaurant. Both venues are popular with affluent, young and diaspora Somalis and were busy on Wednesday, with customers breaking their Ramadan fast.
"The operation is over now and the gunmen were killed by the security forces," said Mohamed Ahmed Arab, spokesman for Somalia's security ministry.
"They have attacked business places and killed innocent civilians, 18 civilians were killed, including a Syrian national, and more than 10 others were wounded," he said.
Reports said the gunmen spent the night roaming the restaurant, killing those they found trapped before security forces intervened.
Gunmen were also holding at least 20 people hostage in a restaurant, police said.
"The fighters are still inside Pizza House and they hold inside over 20 people. We do not know how many of those are dead or alive," Ibrahim Hussein, a police major, told Reuters.
Earlier on Wednesday, police said nine people, mostly women who were hotel staff, had died in the attack. Security officials said a suicide attacker had rammed an explosive-laden car into the hotel's entrance before gunmen stormed the restaurant.
"A suspected car bomb is also parked in front of Pizza House. This and snipers have made it difficult for the security forces to head inside,’ said Hussein.
Other officials said victims inside the hotel had been safely evacuated, but there are likely to be more casualties. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks; the group has carried out a campaign of suicide bombings, in its bid to topple the Somali government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam.
"A mujahid (fighter) with his suicide car bomb martyred himself after he rammed into the Posh Hotel, which is a nightclub. The operation goes on," Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group's military spokesman, told Reuters.
Since losing large swathes of territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the government, the group has frequently launched raids and deadly attacks in Mogadishu and other regions controlled by the federal government.
The East African country has been hit by armed conflict since 1991 when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
With input from agencies
Published Date: Jun 15, 2017 12:45 PM | Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 13:08 PM