At least 18 dead in Mogadishu restaurant siege

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The United Nations envoy for Somalia on Thursday strongly condemned last night's attack on a pizza restaurant and an adjacent hotel in Mogadishu that reportedly killed at least 19 people.

But before they were rescued, The Associated Press says, numerous survivors endured a nightmarish scenario as militants proceeded from room to room, firing at civilians at point-blank range. The militants held about 20 people hostage throughout the siege.

Carrying the body of a civilian who was killed in the attack in Mogadishu, Somalia. "They forced those fleeing the site to go inside", witness Nur Yasin said.

A suicide auto bombing and assault by al-Shabaab militants on two neighbouring restaurants in Somalia's capital Mogadishu ended Thursday morning with 18 dead, a government spokesman said. Special forces troops rescued more than 50 hostages, state news outlets reported.

Police said at least nine people had been killed and several wounded.

Militant Islamists from the al-Shabab group have claimed responsibility for the assault. He did not identify the dead Syrian who local residents said worked as a chef at the Pizza House. The vehicle exploded at the restaurant's gate.

Bursts of gunfire followed the attack, which targeted the Posh Hotel - the only venue with a discotheque in the capital - according to a Reuters witness.

A particularly deadly Shabab strike on a busy market left 39 people dead in February, while a twin auto bomb attack by the group on a popular Mogadishu hotel left 28 dead in January. In 2015 The Guardian newspaper described Posh Treats as the first country club open in the city after more than two decades of war.

"Where there were two attractive restaurants, this morning there is complete devastation and death, blood and body parts everywhere".

Capt. Mohamed Hussein says a hostage situation is under way at the Pizza House restaurant.

The al-Shabab militant group said it carried out the attack.

The armed group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack that often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu, including hotels, military checkpoints and areas near the presidential palace.

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