Twenty-six people, including a presidential candidate, two journalists, and a UN worker were killed in a terrorist attack on a popular hotel in Somalia on Friday night, agencies report.
The 14-hour attack was carried out by four Al-Shabaab jihadists on Asasey Hotel, above, in the port city of Kismayo.
A meeting of community elders, lawmakers, politicians and businessmen was underway at the hotel for the upcoming presidential elections in Jubaland, an autonomous region in southern Somalia, due in August.
A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck at the hotel entrance while three other gunmen went up shooting guests.
Among the dead were a Jubbaland presidential candidate Shuuriye, a prominent Somali-Canadian journalist, Nodan Halayeh and her husband Farid Jama Suleiman, a local TV reporter, Mohamed Sahal Omar, and a staff member of UN’s International Organization for Migration, Abdifatah Mohamed Abdow.
Halayeh’s death sparked an outpouring of sorrow on social media.
Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans and one Briton were also killed in the attack.
Among the 56 injured were two Chinese citizens.
The security forces said they have shot dead all the three gunmen and the situation is under control.
One witness described dead bodies and wounded people strewn inside the hotel.
Another witness said the three gunmen who stormed the hotel were wearing police uniform to hoodwink security guards posted at the main gate.
Police said the 14-hour attack, which began late on Friday, was the largest coordinated strike by the Shabaab jihadists in Kismayo.
Shabaab described the incident as “a martyrdom attack”.
The US Mission to Somalia said it would continue to work with Somali and other international partners in the fight against extremism.
The African Union’s Special Representative in Somalia, Francisco Madeira, said the attack was meant to derail progress in Somalia.
Although Al Shabaab was driven out of capital Mogadishu in 2011 and Kismayo in 2012, the Islamist group often uses car bombs to blast their way into hotels to kill tourists and gain international attention.