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Militants Kill At Least 17 In Attack On Somali Beachfront Restaurant

People carry away a body from Lido beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, after an attack on a beachfront restaurant. Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

People carry away a body from Lido beach in Mogadishu, Somalia, after an attack on a beachfront restaurant.

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

In Mogadishu, Somali security forces have ended a siege at a restaurant where gunmen had taken refuge after firing on diners and passers-by late Thursday. The attack left at least 17 people dead, the government says. The militant Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.

NPR's Gregory Warner reports:

"Police say the attack began at dusk with a car bomb at a popular restaurant on Lido beach in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

"Thursday evening is the start of the weekend in Somalia. The restaurants and beach were packed with people. A wedding party was in progress.

"Gunmen holed up in the restaurant as hundreds were trapped inside. A second car bomb went off an hour later after government soldiers had swarmed the scene.

The attack is the latest in a series of strikes on "soft targets" by the extremist group, which aims to impose its interpretation of Islamic law on Somalia. Greg notes that the use of car bombs and a few gunmen is the al-Shabab trademark in its attacks on hotels and restaurants.

Here's more from Greg on Thursday's attack:

"Lido beach in Mogadishu is more than just a relaxation spot, it's a symbol of what peace in Somalia might look like. You find young Somalis enjoying the surf or a bite of shrimp at seaside restaurants. This attack by al-Shabab was chillingly low-fi — two car bombs and a few gunmen managed to hold off police for eight hours."

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke later tweeted about the assault on the restaurant.