At Least 26 Dead in Somalia Hotel Attack Claimed by Shabab


MOGADISHU, Somalia — The death toll from a car bomb and gun attack on a hotel in Somalia rose to 26 on Saturday, officials said.

A former politician and two prominent Somali journalists were among the dead. One of the journalists was identified as Hodan Nalayeh, a well known Canadian-Somali who was lauded as a hero and an inspiration to fellow Somalis.

Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans and a Briton also died in Friday’s attack, according to Ahmed Mohamed Islam, the president of the Jubbaland region where the attack took place.

The attack in the southern port city of Kismayo targeted the Asasey Hotel, which is popular with politicians and Somali expatriates.

The Shabab, an Islamic rebel group with links to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, which has killed thousands across East Africa, seeks to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government and has accused the president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, of being an apostate and an American “puppet.”

The attack began Friday evening when at least four Al Shabab militants stormed the Asasey Hotel. Over the next 14 hours, government troops besieged the hotel compound and killed some of the attackers, officials said.

It ended Saturday morning after an all-night siege by Somalian troops who shot and killed some of the attackers in the compound, officials said. Fifty-six people, including two Chinese citizens, were injured.

Iid Badal Mohamed, a former Somali ambassador to the United Nations, had been booked in the Asasey hotel for two weeks, but relocated to another hotel just before the attack.

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CreditMona Nalayeh, via Associated Press

“I was near the hotel. The attack started with a suicide bombing, then gunmen on foot stormed the hotel,” he said in a phone interview. “They were shooting every person they saw on the spot.”

He said he believes the location was targeted because it is known to host senior politicians. Some news reports said the attack coincided with a meeting of local elders and politicians at the hotel to discuss upcoming regional elections.

Ms. Nalayeh, the journalist, was born in Somalia but spent much of her life in Canada. She had recently returned to live in Somalia, according to a friend, Dr. Sadiyo Siad, the chancellor of Hano Academy, a technology institute.

“It’s devastating to know that she will no longer be with us,” she said. “She really wanted to send a positive image about Somalia.”

Ms. Nalayeh founded Integration TV, a video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world, described as a platform for “inspiring and uplifting stories for Somalis.” Her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, also died in the attack, according to The Associated Press.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the former president of Somalia, tweeted about the death of Ms. Nalayeh. He wrote: “Our sister Hodan was a Mother and a hero that informs and educates her people at a time needed the most. Terrorists continue to target our heroes. Let us stand together and stop them once and for all.”

The other journalist killed was identified as Mohamed Omar Sahal.

Ismail Mohamed Shuriye, a former member of parliament from the Jubbaland region, was also among the victims, according to local media reports. He was a candidate in the upcoming elections for the head of the local Jubbaland government.

The State Department said on Saturday that at least one U.S. citizen was among those killed, but did not provide any further details. It condemned the attack and said the United States will continue to work with Somali and international partners in the fight against violent extremism in the country.

Mohamed Nasir Guled, the head of police for the Jubbaland region, said several people have been arrested as police continue to investigate.



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