MOGADISHU, Somalia (CNN) — A suicide car bomber and gunmen on Thursday attacked a beachside restaurant-hotel complex in the capital of Somalia, a country that’s no stranger to such deadly violence.
Col. Abdulkadir Mohammed, a senior police officer, said that a car rammed the gate of the Liido Seafood Restaurant overlooking a Mogadishu beach. After the blast, militants entered the adjoining hotel — at least some of them by boat — Mohammed and a Western source in Mogadishu told CNN.
At least five people died and two were wounded in the initial explosion, according to Mohammed. It was not immediately clear how many casualties there were inside the building, where the police colonel said security forces were exchanging heavy gunfire with holed-up militants late Thursday.
The Al-Shabaab terror group claimed responsibility for the attack on its mouthpiece radio station, reporting that its fighters armed with AK-47 rifles and wearing suicide vests had invaded the hotel.
In a Twitter post, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke wrote, “I unreservedly condemn the barbaric attack @ Liido. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims.”
Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked militant organization, has carried out similar attacks targeting civilian areas in the past. The group’s aim is to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, but it has seemingly gone beyond that goal — and beyond Somalia — with a host of horrific attacks, like last year’s massacre at Kenya’s Garissa University College and a 2013 siege of Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall.
Last week, Al-Shabaab militants staged a deadly attack on an African Union base in southwestern Somalia.
And last fall, the Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for blasts and gunfire at Mogadishu’s popular Sahafi Hotel. At least 15 people were killed in that attack, officials said.
“This attack further demonstrates the vile nature of Al Shabaab, whose sole purpose is to spread terror and destabilize Somalia,” the African Union mission tweeted. “Our resolve can only be rejuvenated, to fight on until Somalia is freed of all elements of terror.”