As many as 26 people, including an unknown number of Americans, died during a more than 14-hour-long siege on a Somali hotel carried out by gunmen with ties to the global Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda, according to a report, and dozens more were reported injured.
Among those killed was a presidential candidate running in upcoming regional elections, current Jubbaland president Ahmed Mohamed said in a statement to Reuters.
Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, also were among those killed, Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to the Associated Press. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
“I’m absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people,” Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.
Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world.
Attackers first deployed a suicide bomb at the entrance gate to the Asasey Hotel in Somalia’s port city of Kismayo on Friday evening. At least four gunmen then stormed the hotel, which is frequented by politicians, patrons and lawmakers.
At least 14 hours passed before Somali troops shot dead all four attackers inside the hotel compound, Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer, told the Associated Press.
Reports on the death toll were conflicting. Initial reports said 12 people died in the attack. The president of Somalia’s Jubbaland region told Reuters on Saturday the death toll had risen to 26 people, including Americans, a Briton, Kenyans and Tanzanians.
The number of injured ranged from 40 to 56, according to reports.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack. Al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaeda, often uses car bombs to infiltrate heavily fortified targets like the hotel in Kismayo, which has been relatively quiet in recent years.