Gunmen stormed a popular beachside hotel and restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday, detonating two car bombs and exchanging gunfire with government forces in a battle that killed at least three people.
The armed group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack at the Beach View Hotel on Mogadishu's Lido beach, an area with many restaurants and other upmarket establishments popular with business people.
"After the blast, I saw at least four armed men run into the hotel, shooting everyone inside and around the hotel," Mustafa Elmi, a Lido beach visitor, told DPA news agency.
"I managed to escape with minor wounds, but there were people who were shot dead on the spot," he added.
A second explosion hit the nearby Lido Seafood restaurant, where several gunmen were briefly holed up with hostages.
Following an exchange of fire, government spokesman Abdisalam Aato told Al Jazeera that forces had defeated the gunmen and secured the area.
"Our security forces are in control of the restaurant. They have rescued many civilians and are now cleaning the place." Aato said.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein told Al Jazeera that he saw three dead bodies outside the restaurant, but more deaths were likely to be discovered.
Al-Shabab, which is aligned with Al-Qaeda, wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and impose a strict version of Islamic law across Somalia, a nation racked by conflict since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
Al Jazeera and wire services