Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants have taken at least 20 people hostage in a restaurant in the Somali capital of Mogadishu after ramming an explosive-laden car into a hotel next door, claiming the lives of 11 people.
Security officials said the militants first rammed the car into the entrance of the Posh Hotel in the capital on Wednesday and then stormed the Pizza House restaurant, which is adjacent to the hotel and a popular venue for young citizens, according to Reuters.
The gunmen cut off electricity to complicate security forces’ efforts to end the siege, according to officials. Heavy gunfire was also heard.
“The fighters are still inside Pizza House and they hold inside over 20 people. We do not know how many of those are dead or alive,” said Ibrahim Hussein, a police major.
Witnesses said security forces cordoned off the whole district surrounding the site of the incidents, and that the people inside the hotel had been safely evacuated.
Other sources put the number of fatalities from car bomb attack on the hotel at 17.
Somalia has been a scene of deadly clashes between government forces and al-Shabab militants since 2006.
The al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.
A particularly deadly Shabab strike on a busy market left 39 people dead in February, while a twin car bomb attack by the group on a popular Mogadishu hotel left 28 dead in January.
The Takfiri militant group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.
By Africafrique and aagencies