Militants attack popular Mogadishu beach with car bombs and gunfire – Mashable

A group of militants set off explosions and sprayed bullets at a popular beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Thursday evening, leaving an unknown number of people dead and wounded.

The attack began just after sunset at Lido Beach when witnesses reportedly heard two explosions followed by outbursts of gunfire. The explosions were reported to be car bombs, which reportedly targeted popular restaurant at the beach, The Beach View Cafe and Lido Sea Food, in an area where diners often sit outside.

The National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) of Somalia tweeted that the attackers disrupted a party for university graduates at the restaurant.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein told the Associated Press he believes the attackers may have taken some hostages inside the Beach View Cafe, which is popular with the city’s elite and government officials. Other fighters were reported to have holed up inside a nearby hotel, which police said was under the attackers’ control.

“The operation (to dislodge the attackers) is ongoing now. The (attackers) are still inside and fighting our troops,” Hussein said from the scene of the attack as gunfire rang out in the background. He said he had counted at least three bodies outside the restaurant. An unknown number of people are still trapped inside the restaurant, he said.

Witnesses said that gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” and entered the restaurant from the direction of the beach as clients, sitting behind razor wire, watched the seashore.

“They randomly fired at the people sitting near the beach before entering the restaurant,” said witness Ahmed Nur, who was strolling along on the shoreline when the attack happened.

Witnesses said they were wearing suicide vests.

A witness told the BBC that the gunshots were heard shortly before a car rammed into the entrance of the restaurant along the beach at 7:30 p.m. local time, which then exploded. In the wake of that first explosion came more gunshots, and witnesses said that as many as five militants, believed to be from al-Shabab, began exchanging gunfire with police and firing “indiscriminately” on civilians.

Soon, a second car bomb exploded.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke took to Twitter to condemn the attackers, as did Michael Keating, the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, who said that his “thoughts are with the people at this beach.”

A popular destination for tourists and locals alike, Lido Beach has been the subject of heavy surveillance by authorities, who said they had feared an attack. It’s among the country’s most popular beaches; the Mogadishu tourism board’s website heralds it as “Mogadishu’s Miami beach.”

This is a developing story. Additional reporting by the Associated Press. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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