The Somali capital of Mogadishu was the scene of a deadly terrorist incident on Wednesday evening where 19 people were killed in a car bomb and subsequent hostage-taking attack.
Police have reported that a terrorist drove a car bomb into the Posh Hotel in the capital and then gunmen took more than 20 people hostage in an adjacent restaurant until security forces could move in and neutralize the threat to the hostages.
District police chief Abdi Bashir told Reuters Somali security forces took back control of the restaurant at midnight after the gunmen had held hostages inside for several hours. Five of the gunmen were killed, Bashir said.
“We are in control of the hotel but it was mostly destroyed by the suicide bomber,” he told Reuters by phone.
Witnesses said there were bodies lying at the scene on Thursday morning as ambulances came to take them away.
Ahmed Mohamud Adow, the spokesman for the country’s interior ministry, said the dead included a Syrian national who worked at the restaurant. He did not identify the dead Syrian who local residents said worked as a chef at the Pizza House.
Another 27 civilians were taken to hospital with various injuries, ambulance services said. Witnesses said the attack was launched after the Iftar dinner for customers who are fasting for Ramadan. Most of them were still inside relaxing.
The wreckages of three-wheeled scooters caught up in the blast at the hotel, which also housed a massage parlour, lay overturned around the scene. Al Shabaab, the Islamist militant group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group claimed on Thursday morning it killed more than 20 people including soldiers and government workers.
The Somali country has been wracked by civil war since 1991. Dictator Siad Barre was disposed and the rival clan leaders fought for control. The US was involved in a humanitarian mission and subsequent attempt to remove one of the clan leaders Mohamed Farrah Aidid in the early 1990s. That resulted in the operation that became known as Black Hawk Down.
The US is involved in the attempt by the Somali government to remove the al-Shabaab terror group but on a small footprint although that could change in the future.
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Photo courtesy Reuters