Shabaab suicide assault team takes hostages in Mogadishu restaurant

A Shabaab assault on a popular nightclub and restaurant in Mogadishu has left at least nine people dead and several others wounded. At least 20 people are still being held hostage inside the restaurant, according to local reports.

Earlier today, a suicide car bomb detonated outside of a nightclub near the Posh Hotel leaving several people dead. Shortly after the blast, an assault team stormed the perimeter and entered a nearby restaurant. Somali police have stated that others died when the Shabaab militants opened fire on “stunned civilians who were sitting down for Iftar [a sundown meal breaking the fast for Ramadan].”

According to local reports, the jihadists stormed the Pizza House restaurant and took at least 20 people hostage. Some hostages have been reported freed, however, many others are believed to still be held by the jihadists.

In a statement released on its Shahada News Agency, Shabaab said that the attack was targeting the nightclub as it is “frequently visited by foreigners, government officials, and intelligence agents.” The statement did not confirm a hostage situation, but it did report that the assault is ongoing.

Today’s attack is just the latest in a string of suicide assaults in Mogadishu so far this year. In January, Shabaab perpetrated a suicide assault on the Dayah Hotel in Mogadishu. The attack, which included two suicide bombings, left at least 28 people dead near Somalia’s parliament building. Targeting popular hotels in Somalia’s capital is a common tactic of the jihadist group. [See FDD’s Long War JournalShabaab suicide assault at Mogadishu hotel kills at least 28.]

In February and March, there was a spate of car bombings perpetrated by Shabaab inside the Somali capital. On Feb. 19, a suicide car bomb killed at least 30 people at a market in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district. On Feb. 27, another suicide car bomb targeted Somali soldiers at a checkpoint just outside the city. On March 13, another car bomb was detonated near the Wehliye Hotel, killing at least 13. On that same day, Shabaab attempted to ram a minibus full of explosives through a military checkpoint, but the bus was stopped before reaching its target.

On March 21, Shabaab killed at least 10 people in a suicide bombing near the presidential palace in Mogadishu. The jihadist group said on its Shahada News Agency Telegram channel that the suicide bombing targeted a “gathering of officers, officials, and government militias” at a checkpoint near the palace. [See Threat Matrix report, Shabaab suicide bombing strikes near presidential palace.]

In addition to car bombs, Shabaab has also initiated coordinated assaults and assassinations against public officials. Before the March 21 suicide bombing, Shabaab militants also launched an assault on the Somali Defense Ministry headquarters in Mogadishu. Approximately 20 militants attacked the compound before being rebuffed. Earlier that month, a local government official was assassinated in the Yaqshid district, while in February, a former MP was killed outside his house in the Dharkenley district.

In April, Shabaab attempted to assassinate the newly minted defense minister in a suicide car bombing. The minister survived, but 15 people, including many in a nearby passenger bus, were killed in the blast. [See Threat Matrix report, Shabaab suicide bombing strikes near defense ministry headquarters.]

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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