Somali survivors have described harrowing scenes of the night-long siege of a popular Mogadishu restaurant by al-Shabab Islamic extremists that was ended by security forces.
At least 17 people, including foreigners, were dead, police and an ambulance driver said. Survivors of the attack were led by soldiers from the Pizza House restaurant building.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility as the restaurant was under siege.
Soldiers surrounded the restaurant building and fired guns mounted on the backs of vehicles. Troops entered the ground floor while the insurgent snipers held positions upstairs.
All five attackers were killed and after dawn the soldiers secured the building, said senior Somali police office Captain Mohamed Hussein.
Survivors recounted harrowing stories of hiding under tables, as armed attackers continued firing in the restaurant and hunted for patrons. Attackers moved from room to room, looking for people, said a survivor.
“I never thought I would have the chance to see the sun again. They were killing people on sight,” Saida Hussein, a university student, told The Associated Press. She said she survived the attack by hiding behind a large table downstairs.
Another survivor, Aden Karie, was wounded by an attacker who spotted him moving behind a curtain in the dark room.
“He shot at me twice and one bullet struck me on the leg,” said Karie as he was taken to an awaiting ambulance.
The roofs were blown off the restaurant and nearby buildings from the powerful blasts.
The bodies of five girls thought to have been killed by the militants were found in the restaurant, police said. Inside the building, the body of a Syrian man who worked as a chef at restaurant lay near the rubble of a blood-spattered and bullet-marked wall.
The attack began Wednesday evening a car bomb exploded at the gate to the restaurant and gunmen posing as military forces stormed into the establishment.