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Eleven people killed as gunmen hold hostages at Somali city restaurant

The attack began when a car bomb exploded outside a Pizza House restaurant in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

File photo of Mogadishu from an attack in January of this year.
File photo of Mogadishu from an attack in January of this year.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

SOMALI POLICE SAY that forces have shot dead two of the gunmen holed up inside a restaurant in Somalia’s capital and rescued 10 people who were being held hostage.

Captain Mohamed Hussein said five attackers are thought to remain in the Pizza House restaurant with an untold number of hostages. He says heavy gunfire has been heard inside.

Hussein says the attackers have switched off the electricity, complicating efforts by security forces.

Tonight’s attack in Mogadishu began when a car bomb exploded at the restaurant gate. Police say at least nine people are dead and several wounded.

The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.

SOMALIA Source: AP

Gunmen dressed as military forces were holding dozens of hostages inside a popular restaurant in Somalia’s capital in an attack that began when a car bomb exploded at the gate, police and a witness said Wednesday night, while the extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility.

Police said at least nine people had been killed and several wounded. Most of the victims were young men who were entering the Pizza House when the vehicle exploded, Captain Mohamed Hussein said.

A burst of gunfire was later heard inside the restaurant, Hussein said.

The gunmen “were dressed in military uniforms. They forced those fleeing the site to go inside” the restaurant, witness Nur Yasin told The Associated Press.

The blast largely destroyed the restaurant’s facade and sparked a fire.

While al-Shabab claimed to have attacked the neighboring Posh Treats restaurant, which is frequented by the city’s elite and was damaged in the blast, security officials said the Pizza House was targeted instead.

Security forces rescued Asian, Ethiopian, Kenyan and other workers at Posh Treats as the attack continued, Hussein said.

The Somalia-based al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu, including hotels, military checkpoints and areas near the presidential palace.

It has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it.

Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

The extremist group also faces a new military push from the United States after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes, against al-Shabab.

On Sunday, the US military in Africa said it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight Islamic extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp.

Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed confirmed that airstrike and said such attacks would disrupt the group’s ability to conduct new attacks.

With a new federal government established, pressure is growing on Somalia’s military to assume full responsibility for the country’s security.

The 22,000-strong African Union multinational force, AMISOM, which has been supporting the fragile central government, plans to start withdrawing in 2018 and leave by the end of 2020.

Today, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the UN political mission in the Horn of Africa nation, which is trying to rebuild after more than two decades as a failed state, until 31 March 2018. The resolution recognized that “this is a critical moment for Somalia”.

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Associated Press

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