20 dead in gun and bomb attacks at popular beachfront restaurants in Mogadishu
Islamist militants have attacked popular beachfront restaurants in the Somali capital Mogadishu, killing 20 people, the security ministry says.
Two car bombs exploded about an hour apart early on Thursday evening. In between, gunmen approached from the beach, firing on diners.
A siege followed, lasting eight hours, but has now ended, the ministry said.
Al-Shabab said it was behind the attack. The group has carried out frequent assaults on the capital.
Somali Prime Minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, condemned the attack as “barbaric”.
There are varying reports about how the attack started but it appears that as the first car bomb went off, at around 19:30 local time (16:30 GMT) on Thursday, the gunmen stormed the area.
They are reported to have burst into one of the restaurants and took hostages.
“They randomly fired at the people sitting near the beach before entering the restaurant,” witness Ahmed Nur told Associated Press.
The Somali authorities said they have arrested the suspected leader of the attack. Twenty people were injured, police said.
It is not clear whether the death toll includes any of the assailants.
After the evening prayer, I went to Lido beach, in particular Beach View restaurant. When I was there about 30 minutes, and I was spending time with my friends including journalists, we saw bullets raining on us.
A good number of people were seated around me, there was a wedding ceremony at the hall of the restaurant. We started running towards the door, but before I reached we heard a loud explosion.
I saw some people jumping from second floor. Bullets were flying all over the place, and there was another explosion. Then everyone got confused. I personally saw three wounded people. I did not see those who have been harmed by the explosions. I think the car was parked near the main door of the restaurant.
Lido Beach, on the northern edge of Mogadishu, attracts thousands of mostly young Somalis looking to relax and enjoy the beach and the surf.
Several restaurants have opened up along the beach front in recent years, and people would have been sitting out in front of them when the attacks began.
Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, was ousted from Mogadishu in August 2011, but still has a presence in large areas of southern Somalia.
The group stormed an African Union military base last week in southern Somalia, killing dozens of Kenyan troops.