Militants Kill At Least 17 In Attack On Somali Beachfront Restaurant
In Mogadishu, Somali security forces have ended a siege at a restaurant where gunmen had taken refuge after firing on diners and passers-by late Thursday. The attack left at least 17 people dead, the government says. The militant Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.
NPR's Gregory Warner reports:
"Police say the attack began at dusk with a car bomb at a popular restaurant on Lido beach in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
"Thursday evening is the start of the weekend in Somalia. The restaurants and beach were packed with people. A wedding party was in progress.
"Gunmen holed up in the restaurant as hundreds were trapped inside. A second car bomb went off an hour later after government soldiers had swarmed the scene.
The attack is the latest in a series of strikes on "soft targets" by the extremist group, which aims to impose its interpretation of Islamic law on Somalia. Greg notes that the use of car bombs and a few gunmen is the al-Shabab trademark in its attacks on hotels and restaurants.
Here's more from Greg on Thursday's attack:
"Lido beach in Mogadishu is more than just a relaxation spot, it's a symbol of what peace in Somalia might look like. You find young Somalis enjoying the surf or a bite of shrimp at seaside restaurants. This attack by al-Shabab was chillingly low-fi — two car bombs and a few gunmen managed to hold off police for eight hours."
Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke later tweeted about the assault on the restaurant.
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I unreservedly condemn the barbaric attack @ Liido. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims #Somalia— SomaliPM (@SomaliPM) January 21, 2016