ECONOMY

At least 18 killed in restaurant attack in Somalia's Mogadishu

AT LEAST 18 KILLED IN RESTAURANT ATTACK IN SOMALIAS MOGADISHU

A suicide car bombing and assault by Shabaab militants on two neighboring restaurants in Somalia's capital Mogadishu ended Thursday morning with 18 dead, a government spokesman said.

"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.

The attack Wednesday night began with a suicide car bombing at the gate of the restaurant. The blast largely destroyed the restaurant's facade and sparked a fire at the restaurant.

"The suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives into the building," said Ali Mohamed, a police official, identifying the target as the Posh Treats restaurant.

Witness Abas Ahmed, who was at another nearby restaurant when the explosion happened, described seeing "the dead bodies of several people and others who were injured."

Fighting continued through the night as Somalia's al-Shabab terrorists fought off heavily armed soldiers in the bloody siege at the popular Mogadishu restaurant.

Snipers fired on security troops who surrounded the restaurant building and used big guns mounted on the backs of vehicles to neutralize attackers. Soldiers entered the ground floor while the insurgent attackers held positions upstairs.

The roofs were blown off the Pizza House restaurant and nearby buildings from the powerful blasts.

The Shabaab, an al-Qaeda aligned militant group that launches regular suicide attacks in the capital against civilian, government and military targets, claimed responsibility for the bombing via its Radio Andalus broadcaster and said that its gunmen had afterwards stormed the restaurant compound.

Survivors of the attack were led by soldiers from the Pizza House restaurant building. The injured were taken by ambulances.

All five attackers were killed and after dawn the soldiers secured the building, said senior Somali police office Capt. Mohamed Hussein. The troops' efforts to take control of the Pizza House restaurant were slowed by the darkness of night, forcing them to wait until morning, said Hussein.

Extremist attacks often increase in tempo during Ramadan and Wednesday's bombing came in the evening after the breaking of the fast when mosques and restaurants are busy.

Posh Treats, a relatively new restaurant in an affluent part of the capital, is particularly popular with young and diaspora Somalis.

The Shabaab has been fighting for the last decade to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Mogadishu and has also launched attacks in Kenya and Uganda, both contributors to a 22,000-strong African Union force in the country.

Although pushed out of the capital in 2011 the group still controls parts of the countryside where a drought threatens to tip into famine this year.

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