MOGADISHU: Gunmen killed 26 people, including Kenyans, Americans, a Briton and Tanzanians, when they stormed a hotel in Somalia’s southern port city of Kismayo, a regional state president said on Saturday, the deadliest day in the city since militants were driven out in 2012.
A car bomb exploded at the hotel where local elders and lawmakers were attending a meeting on Friday night, and then three gunmen stormed in, police said. It took 11 hours before security forces ended the all-night siege, police officer Major Mohamed Abdi said.
The dead included a presidential candidate for the August regional elections, Jubbaland state president Ahmed Mohamed Madobe said in a statement. At least two journalists and a UN agency staff member were also reported to have been killed.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab, which is trying to topple Somalia’s weak UN-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, said on Saturday the militants had killed 30 people and four al Shabaab fighters had also been killed. Regional president Madobe said three Kenyans, one Briton, two Americans and three Tanzanians were among those killed.
“Among the dead was also a Jubbaland presidential candidate named Shuuriye. Four militants attacked the hotel. One of them was the suicide car bomber, two were shot dead and one was captured alive by Jubbaland security forces,” he said.
He said 56 people were wounded in the attack, including two Chinese citizens.
Police had said earlier all the attackers had been killed.
Kismayo resident Osman Nur said the explosion had destroyed huge parts of the hotel and nearby businesses and security forces were deployed all over the city. TV footage showed walls peppered with bullet holes and furniture strewn across the hotel courtyard.
Another anguished resident said she lost relatives in the attack. “I have been looking for the whereabouts of my nephew who worked at the hotel. I got his dead body this morning and have just buried him,” Halima Nur, a mother of four, said by phone.
“And this afternoon I will attend the burial of other relatives.”
The Somalia office of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration said one of its local staff members, Abdifatah Mohamed, was among those killed. SADO Somalia, a local non-governmental organisation, said its executive director Abdullahi Isse Abdulle had died in the attack.
Two journalists were among the dead.