Islamic extremists blew open the gate of a hotel in southern Somalia with a car bomb and took over the building for more than 14 hours, leaving 26 people dead before Somali forces who besieged the hotel overnight killed the attackers. The victims included a prominent Canadian Somali journalist.
Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans and a Briton were also among the dead in the attack in the port city of Kismayo, according to Ahmed Madobe, president of the surrounding Jubbaland state. Fifty-six people, including two Chinese, were injured, he told reporters.
At least four Shabab assailants attacked the Asasey Hotel on Friday evening, beginning with a suicide car bomb at the entrance gate and followed by an assault by gunmen who stormed the hotel, which is frequented by politicians, patrons and lawmakers.
The ensuing standoff and battle lasted more than 14 hours before troops shot dead all attackers inside the hotel compound, said Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack. Shabab, which is allied with Al Qaeda, often uses car bombs to breach heavily fortified targets like the hotel in Kismayo, which has been relatively quiet in recent years.
The attack is a blow to the Somalian government’s efforts to hold nationwide, one-person one-vote elections next year.
Security officials cordoned off the site of the attack and prevented journalists from taking photos or video of the damaged hotel and in some cases destroyed journalists’ cameras. Government officials have not been available for further interviews.
Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, died in the attack, Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to the Associated Press.
“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 Nalayeh, 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. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen mourned Nalayeh’s death on Twitter, saying she “highlighted the community’s positive stories and contributions in Canada” through her work as a journalist. “We mourn her loss deeply, and all others killed in the #KismayoAttack,” he wrote.
A top official of the African Union condemned the attack.
“This is an attack meant to derail progress in Somalia as the country rebuilds and consolidates the gains made on peace and security,” said Francisco Madeira, special representative of the chairman of the African Union Commission. “Somalia has made tremendous progress in seizing territory and pushing out the terrorists from many places across the country.”
He said the African Union’s multinational force in Somalia would continue to work to stabilize the country.