An all-night siege by extremist militants at a Somali hotel in the southern port city of Kismayo ended Saturday, but not before 26 people – including two Americans – were killed, officials said.
Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, one Briton, and a prominent Canadian Somali journalist were also killed when at least four al-Shabab assailants attacked the Asasey Hotel on Friday evening.
Fifty-six people, including two Chinese, were injured in the attack, Ahmed Madobe, the president of Jubbaland regional state, told reporters.
The attack began Friday night with a suicide car bomb at the entrance gate and continued with an assault by gunmen who stormed into the building, which is frequented by politicians, patrons and lawmakers.
The attack lasted more than 14 hours before Somali troops shot dead all attackers inside the hotel compound, Col, Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer, told The Associated Press.
A spokesman for the group’s military operation told Reuters on Saturday that they had killed 30 people and four of its fighters were also dead. The group and government officials tend to give differing casualty numbers for attacks.
Al Shabab often uses car bombs to infiltrate 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 AP.
"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. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.