Nine killed in restaurant attack in Somali capital

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU (Reuters) -Nine people were killed in an attack claimed by al Shabaab Islamist militants at an upmarket restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Friday night, police said.

Those killed at the popular Pearl restaurant were six civilians and three soldiers, police said in a statement. Additionally, Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of Aamin ambulance service, said his group had carried 20 wounded people from the scene.

Security forces rescued 84 civilians while the fate of the attackers was unclear, the police statement said.

The Somali National News Agency said on Twitter that “security forces have successfully neutralised the al Shabaab militants responsible for the terrorist attack on the Pearl Beach Hotel in Lido Beach, Mogadishu”.

On Saturday, debris from the restaurant was strewn around the blood-stained street. Window panes were shattered.

Hussein Mohamed, a waiter at another restaurant nearby, said he heard a blast followed by gunfire when the attack started.

“The whole area is cordoned off by security forces,” he said.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab said it was behind the attack.

“The Mujahideen managed to enter the Pearl beach and are still fully in control,” the group said in a statement.

In November, the group, which controls swaths of the country, attacked another hotel in Mogadishu, killing nine.

Al Shabaab controlled a vast area of Somalia before being pushed back in government counteroffensives since last year. However, the militants remain capable of launching significant attacks on government, commercial, and military targets.

In late May, its fighters attacked a base housing Ugandan peacekeepers 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, killing 54 soldiers.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal OmarAdditional reporting by Jose JosephWriting by George ObulutsaEditing by William Mallard and Frances Kerry)