MOGADISHU (Somalia) • Islamist gunmen killed 26 people, including Kenyans, Americans, a Briton and Tanzanians, when they stormed a hotel in Somalia's southern port city of Kismayo, the deadliest day in the city since insurgents were driven out in 2012.
A car bomb exploded at the Medina Hotel where local elders and lawmakers were meeting on Friday night, and then three gunmen stormed in, police said. It took 11 hours before security forces ended the overnight attack, police officer Major Mohamed Abdi told Reuters.
The dead included a presidential candidate in next month's regional elections, Jubbaland state president Ahmed Mohamed Madobe said yesterday. At least two journalists and a United Nations agency staff member were also reported to have been killed.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which is trying to topple Somalia's weak UN-backed government, immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mr 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 added that 56 people were wounded in the attack, including two Chinese citizens.
The Somalia office of the UN's International Organisation for Migration said on Twitter that one of its local staff members, Mr Abdifatah Mohamed, was among those killed.
Sado Somalia, a local non-governmental organisation, said on Twitter that its executive director Abdullahi Isse Abdulle had also been killed in the attack.
A media group on Friday confirmed that two journalists were among the dead: Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Naleyah, the founder of Integration TV, and reporter Mohamed Sahal Omar from SBC TV in Kismayo. Mr Madobe said Mr Jama Fariid, Ms Naleyah's husband, had also been killed.
Al-Shabaab was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds.
But the terrorist group remains a major security threat, with its fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, whose troops form part of the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force that helps defend the Somali government.