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Al-Shabab Hits Mogadishu Beachside Hotel

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, al-Shabab fighters march with their weapons during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia.

MOGADISHU — Extremists attacked Friday a beachside hotel in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and security forces are responding at the site as some people remain trapped inside, according to state media in Somalia. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Somali National News Agency, SONNA, said that “many civilians” have been rescued from the Pearl Beach hotel in Mogadishu as fighting between al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate group and security forces continues Friday night. Casualties are still unknown.

On its Twitter account, SONNA shared images reportedly for members of security forces involved in the mission to neutralize al-Shabab militants inside the beachside hotel.

The Somalia-based extremist group is known for carrying out attacks on hotels and other high-profile locations in Mogadishu, usually starting with a suicide bombing.

The Pearl Beach hotel is down the street from the Turkish Embassy and is popular with government officials.

Hassan Abdirahman told The Associated Press that he was in the restaurant at the time.

“I heard the sound of gunshots which came from the beach direction and followed by the huge sound of an explosion.” He said that he escaped and saw damaged vehicles along the street.

Mulki Osman, who was evacuated, also said he and his friends “instantly fled for cover” in the restaurant when they heard explosions and gunfire shortly before 8:00 p.m.

“Some of my friends are still stuck inside the hotel, but the security officers managed to rescue me. I hope they stay safe,” Osman said.

Lido Beach is one of Mogadishu's most popular areas and is busy on Friday nights as Somalis enjoy the weekend by visiting local coffee shops and ice cream parlors.