Gunmen are holding an unknown number of people hostage inside a popular restaurant in Somalia’s capital Wednesday.
At least nine people have been killed in the attack that began when suspected al-Shabab militants set off a car bomb outside the Posh Treats restaurant and then sent a group of armed militants inside.
“We heard a huge deafening explosion and saw a flash of light. Then, after 30 seconds, gunfire ensued inside the restaurant,” a witness told VOA’s Somali Service.
'Huge damage here'
A reporter for VOA who went to the scene said he saw the bodies of at least seven people and that more people might be trapped under debris.
“There is huge damage here. The explosion has leveled most of the building to the ground,” he said.
Two of the gunmen were shot dead and 10 hostages were rescued, but five other attackers were thought to remain inside.
The Posh Treats is a busy restaurant in the Hodan District of southern Mogadishu. It is in a building that also accommodates a salon and massage center.
Somali police officer Aden Mohamed said no gunfire was coming out of the building, but police wanted to confirm the restaurant was safe before rescue operations began.
Government special security forces have cordoned off the entire area.
This is the first suicide attack in Mogadishu during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Al-Shabab often targets hotels and restaurants in the city as part of its drive to bring down the government and install a strict code of Sharia.