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Al Shabab launches deadly attack on Mogadishu beachfront restaurant

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Feisal Omar/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Residents swim in the Indian Ocean waters near the ruins at Lido beach, north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, in this October 2012 photo.

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Somali security forces ended a deadly siege at a beachfront restaurant in Mogadishu, where gunmen had retreated after firing on diners and killing passers-by, on Thursday night.

Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group from Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack in an online radio broadcast. The attack left at least 20 people dead and several others injured, but it’s not clear whether the figure includes the number of the assailants killed by security forces, according to the BBC.

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The militant group approached the restaurant from Lido beach shouting "Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” The Associated Press reported. They took over the restaurant, killing hostages before the security forces managed to get in.

"I was intending to go out but suddenly we heard a heavy explosion followed by gunfire. I saw a militant fighter shooting indiscriminately on everybody." Abdulkadir Mohamed Somow, a witness trapped inside a nearby hotel, told the AP. "Then I locked myself inside a room until we were evacuated peacefully by the security forces."

This was not the first time that the group has targeted popular restaurants in Mogadishu. In November, the militant group assaulted the Sahafi hotel in Mogadishu, killing 15 people, including an member of parliament and a general who led the 2011 force that drove Al Shabab out of Mogadishu, the BBC reported. Lido beach is popular with young people, and several restaurants have opened in the area since the the militant group was driven out of Mogadishu and other strongholds.

The group was ousted from Mogadishu some five years ago now, when the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) embarked on a peacekeeping mission. The group remains a threat, however, in Somalia and neighboring countries.

Last week, the militant group launched a deadly attack on the Kenyan Defense forces (KDF), in southwestern Somalia, near Kenya's border, and claimed to have killed at least 100 Kenyan troops and stolen their equipment, including artillery and sophisticated communications equipment, according to The New York Times. Al Shabab was also responsible for the Westgate Mall and Garissa University attacks the past two years in Kenya that left a total of over 200 people dead. They have also launched similar attacks in Kampala, Uganda.

The group aims to implement its strict interpretation of Sharia law, and has been waging terror in Somalia and its neighbors since 2006.