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Over 20 killed in attack on Somali beachfront – Al-Shabab claim responsibility

A Somali man cries after identifying the dead body of his sister on the beach following an overnight attack on a beachfront restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia on Jan 22. (AP)
A Somali man cries after identifying the dead body of his sister on the beach following an overnight attack on a beachfront restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia on Jan 22. (AP)

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan 22, (Agencies): Somalia’s security forces ended a deadly siege of a beachfront restaurant in the capital, with more than 20 people killed in the attack, a police official said Friday. The security forces took control of the restaurant just before dawn, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, speaking from the scene of the attack in Mogadishu.

It was not clear whether Hussein’s report of more than 20 killed included the assailants. Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, in a broadcast on its online radio late Thursday. Volunteers carried bodies from the scene of the attack early Friday. “I was intending to go out but suddenly we heard a heavy explosion followed by gunfire. … I saw a militant fighter shooting indiscriminately on everybody.

Then I locked myself inside a room until we were evacuated peacefully by the security forces,” said Abdulkadir Mohamed Somow, who had been trapped inside the restaurant. Blasts and bursts of gunfire could be heard as Somali special forces went from room to room pursuing the al- Shabab gunmen who were holed up inside the restaurant.

Hussein, the police official, said the security forces rescued many people who had been trapped inside the restaurant’s hall, where a party was taking place when the attack started on Thursday. Witnesses said that gunmen entered the restaurant from the direction of the beach. They shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” as they attacked. “They randomly fired at people sitting near the beach before entering the restaurant,” said witness Ahmed Nur, who was strolling along the shoreline when the attack happened. Al-Shabab attacked Kenyan peacekeepers in southwestern Somalia last week.

The al-Qaeda-linked group said it had killed about 100 Kenyans and seized weapons and military vehicles. The Kenyan government has given no death toll, but said there were some fatalities. Despite being pushed out of Somalia’s major cities and towns, al- Shabab continues to launch deadly guerrilla attacks across the Horn of Africa country.

African Union troops, government officials and foreigners are frequently targeted. Among the survivors of al-Shabab’s attack on a beachside restaurant in Somalia’s capital was Mohamed Abdiqani Kheyre. He is only 3 years old, and his mother was killed. Witnesses said the Islamic extremists entered the restaurant from the beach Thursday evening, shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” as they fi red at people indiscriminately. On Friday, relatives were identifying the dead, who numbered around 20. The bodies were laid out on the sand, their heads covered by yellow tablecloths, many soaked with blood. Some family members burst into tears upon discovering the body of a loved one.

The beach, which symbolized the resurgence of Somalia’s capital in recent years with people flocking to the shore and swimming in the Indian Ocean, had become a scene of bottomless grief. One woman beat her chest, whispering the name of her son who was killed in the attack. She collapsed as his bloodied body was transported into an ambulance. “They randomly fired at people sitting near the beach before entering the restaurant,” said Ahmed Nur, who was strolling along the shoreline when the attack happened. A party had been taking place when the attack started. After identifying the dead, relatives carried bodies away. The Liido Seafood restaurant was littered with blood-stained, overturned chairs, tables, shoes and bullet casings, the walls scarred from bullet impacts and blackened with soot. Survivors of the Liido Seafood attack said that militants forced restaurant’s guests onto the ground before randomly killing them. “I hid myself downstairs in the bathroom until troops came to my rescue. It was a terrible night,” said Abdiqani Guled Mohamed was wounded in the attack, and on Friday the little boy’s right arm and neck were bandaged as he lay on a hospital bed, as a new generation came to know the violence that has afflicted this Horn of Africa nation for more than two decades. His aunt, Halima Hassan, tended to Mohamed, who gazed up at her with big eyes.

The security forces took control of the restaurant just before dawn, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, speaking from the scene. Some people spent terrifying hours at the scene, not knowing if they would live to see the dawn. “I was intending to go out but suddenly we heard a heavy explosion followed by gunfi re. … I saw a militant fighter shooting indiscriminately at everybody. Then I locked myself inside a room until we were evacuated peacefully by the security forces,” said Abdulkadir Mohamed Somow, who had been trapped inside the restaurant. Blasts and bursts of gunfi re could be heard as Somali special forces went from room to room, pursuing the al- Shabab gunmen.

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