Somalia’s security forces on Saturday ended an overnight attack by the al Shabaab Islamist militant group on a hotel in the southern port city of Kismayu that left 26 people dead and 56 injured.
Among the dead according to Ahmed Mohamed Islam, president of the autonomous Jubaland region are: three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans, a Briton and a Canadian.
A presidential candidate for the upcoming regional elections and a prominent Canadian-Somali journalist were among the dead too.
More than 50 people were wounded.
Somalia’s al-Shabaab Islamic rebels have claimed responsibility.
Members of the al-Qaeda linked group stormed the hotel after targeting it with a car bomb on Friday while local elders and lawmakers were meeting to discuss approaching regional elections.
According to another eye witness, Ahmed Abdulle cited by Reuters, 14 people where said to be killed in the incidence and among which are a journalist and some (local election) candidates.
A journalists’ group had confirmed on Friday that two journalists were among the dead; Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Naleyah, the founder of Integration TV, and Mohamed Sahal Omar, reporter of SBC TV in Kismayu.
Separately, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, general secretary of the Federation of Somali Journalists, said in a statement: “We are saddened and outraged by this loss of life, and condemn in the strongest possible terms this appalling massacre.”
Al Shabaab was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds.
It was driven out of Kismayu in 2012. The city’s port had been a major source of revenue for the group from taxes, charcoal exports and levies on arms and other illegal imports.
Kismayu is the commercial capital of Jubbaland, a region of southern Somalia still partly controlled by al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab remains a major security threat, with fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighboring Kenya, whose troops form part of the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force that helps defend the Somali government.