Witnesses and state media in Somalia say extremists have attacked a beachside hotel in the capital, Mogadishu, and security forces are responding at the site as some people remain trapped inside.
The Somali National News Agency reports that “many civilians” have been rescued from the Pearl Beach hotel as fighting continues Friday night. There is no immediate word on any deaths.
Al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate, al-Shabab, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Somalia-based extremist group is known for carrying out attacks on hotels and other high-profile locations in Mogadishu, usually starting with a suicide bombing.
The Pearl Beach hotel is down the street from the Turkish Embassy and is popular with government officials.
Hassan Abdirahman told The Associated Press that he was in the restaurant at the time.
“I heard the sound of gunshots which came from the beach direction and followed by the huge sound of an explosion.” He said that he escaped and saw damaged vehicles along the street.
Mulki Osman also says he and his friends “instantly fled for cover” in the restaurant when they heard explosions and gunfire shortly before 8 p.m.
“Some of my friends are still stuck inside the hotel, but the security officers managed to rescue me. I hope they stay safe,” he said.
Lido Beach is one of Mogadishu's most popular areas and is busy on Friday nights as Somalis enjoy the weekend by visiting local coffee shops and ice cream parlors.