At least six civilians have been killed and 10 others wounded in a six-hour siege by fighters from the armed group al-Shabab at a beachside hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, police said on Saturday.
“Three brave members of the security forces were martyred during the rescue operation,” the Somali Police Force said in a statement.
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Security forces killed seven attackers from the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, the statement added.
The attack took place on Friday evening at the popular upmarket Pearl Restaurant, on the capital’s Lido Beach.
“Security forces have successfully neutralised the #AlShabaab militants responsible for the terrorist attack on the Pearl Beach Hotel in Lido Beach, #Mogadishu,” Somali National News Agency (SONNA) said on Twitter.
“A large number of civilians were rescued during the operation,” SONNA said.
#BREAKINGNEWS: Security forces have successfully neutralized the #AlShabaab militants responsible for the terrorist attack on the Pearl Beach Hotel in Lido Beach, #Mogadishu. A large number of civilians were rescued during the operation. #Somalia pic.twitter.com/a8Ri0fMuRb
— SONNA (@SONNALIVE) June 10, 2023
The news agency had earlier posted photos showing soldiers in the restaurant of the hotel responding to the attack. One stood next to a glass door with a bullet hole in it, while sandals and a dustpan lay near him.
Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Witnesses reported hearing an explosion followed by heavy gunfire at the hotel.
“I was near the Pearl Beach restaurant when (a) heavy explosion occurred in front of the building,” Abdirahim Ali, a witness, told AFP news agency.
“I have managed to flee but there was heavy gunfire afterwards and the security forces rushed to the area.”
Yaasin Nur was at the restaurant and told AFP it was “full of people as it was recently renovated”.
“I’m worried because there are several of my colleagues who went there and two of them are not responding to their phones,” he said.
Lido Beach is one of Mogadishu’s most popular areas and is busy on Friday nights as Somalis enjoy the weekend by visiting local coffee shops and ice cream parlours.
The attack came only days after al-Shabab fighters killed 54 Ugandan peacekeepers in an attack on an African Union base in the southern town of Bulo Marer.
Al-Shabab has been driven out of Somalia’s main towns and cities but has retained power in large swaths of rural areas, and has continued to carry out attacks against security and civilian targets, including in the capital.
Hotels have often been targeted in the past as they tend to host high-ranking Somali and foreign officials.
The rebels launched a large-scale attack against a hotel at Lido Beach in 2020, killing 10 civilians and a police officer.
The latest attack highlighted the security problems in the Horn of Africa country as it struggles to emerge from decades of conflict.
Last year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched an “all-out war” against al-Shabab, rallying Somalis to help flush out members of the group he described as “bedbugs”.
His remarks came after 21 people were killed and 117 others were wounded in an al-Shabab siege on a Mogadishu hotel in August 2022 that lasted 30 hours.