At least 26 people have been killed in a hotel siege in southern Somalia where a political gathering was taking place.
On Friday, a suicide bomber reportedly rammed a car containing explosives into the Assey Hotel, found in the south Somalia port city of Kismayo, where a meeting between local elders and legislators over upcoming regional elections was taking place.
Gunmen stormed the hotel, killing 26 people, with victims including Kenyans, Tanzanians, Americans, a Briton and a Canadian, as well as prominent Somali politicians. Police had initially put the death toll at 13.
More than 50 people were wounded in the siege.
Among the victims was Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Naleyah, her husband Jama Fariid, and SBC TV reported Mohamed Sahal Omar, who was based in Kismayo.
“Through her work as a journalist, Hodan highlighted the community’s positive stories and contributions in Canada. She became a voice for many. We mourn her loss deeply, and all others killed in the #KismayoAttack,” Canada’s immigration minister Ahmed Hussen wrote on Twitter.
A presidential candidate for an upcoming regional election was also reportedly among those killed in the siege.
The president of Jubbaland, an autonomous region in South Somalia, Ahmed Mohamed told Al Jazeera the attack was carried out by Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda. The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“First, we targeted [the hotel] with a suicide car bomb and then armed mujahideen [fighters] stormed the hotel,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesperson told Al Jazeera.
“There are many dead bodies inside the hotel, including a dead white man,” he said.
The attack lasted more than 14 hours before troops reportedly shot dead all four attackers in the hotel compound.
“The operation is over. The four attackers were shot dead,” police officer Major Mohamed Abdi told Reuters.
Jubbaland’s minister of planning, Just Aw Hersi, confirmed the deaths of several prominent Somalis.
“We are heartbroken by their sudden violent deaths. But rest assured, we are also as mad as hell because of it,” he tweeted.
The Somalia office of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration said Abdifatah Mohamed, one of its local staff members, was among those killed.
Local non-governmental organisation SADO Somalia said on Twitter its executive director Abdullahi Isse Abdulle had too been killed.