Up to 20 people were killed when al-Shabab suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a seafront hotel and restaurant in the heart of the Somali capital.

A car packed with explosives rammed into the Beach View Hotel on Lido beach in Mogadishu on Thursday evening, after which several al-Shabab fighters opened fire at the hotel, witnesses told Al Jazeera. 

"After the blast, I saw at least four armed men run into the hotel, shooting everyone inside and around the hotel," Mustafa Elmi, a beach visitor, told DPA news agency.

"I managed to escape with minor wounds, but there were people who were shot dead on the spot," he added.

At least six people - and eight attackers - were killed, the intelligence agency told Al Jazeera. Other reports, citing police and officials, said up to 20 people may have been killed in total. 

Locals said the death toll was likely to rise because some families had earlier collected bodies for burial.

Ambulance workers stand by near Lido beach where gunmen exploded a car bomb and opened fire [Said Yusuf Warsame/EPA]

A second explosion hit the nearby Lido Seafood restaurant, where several gunmen were reportedly holed up.

"The lights at Lido Seafood have just been switched off. Heavy gunfire is now ongoing," Abdirizak Mohamud, a freelance journalist at the scene, told Al Jazeera.

"More and more security forces are now going into the restaurant. They have pulled out three injured people so far," Mohamud added.

The Lido beach area is home to several restaurants, which are usually full on Thursday nights - the start of the weekend in Somalia.

Government spokesman Abdisalam Aato told Al Jazeera that the situation was now under control.

"Our security forces are in control of the restaurant. They have rescued many civilians and are now cleaning the place," Aato said.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to Al Jazeera. The spokesman said the attack was ongoing. 

Somalia's nearly decade-long battle with al-Shabab has claimed thousands of lives. 

Last week, the group attacked Kenyan forces at an African Union military base in the southern Somali village of El-Ade.

The group claimed to have killed about 100 Kenyan soldiers in that attack. 

 

With reporting by Al Jazeera's Hamza Mohamed

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies