As many as 26 people were killed and 56 others injured in a suicide bomb and gun attack on a hotel in the port city of Kismayo in southern Somalia on Saturday, according to a top regional officer. The deceased include two prominent journalists, several foreigners, politicians, traders and the patrons at the Asasey Hotel. Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, a jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Addressing the local media, regional president Ahmed Mohamed Islam confirmed the news, saying "Twenty-six people were killed in the attack and fifty-six others wounded, among those killed are... foreign nationals three Kenyans, one Canadian, one British, two Americans, and three Tanzanians. There are also two wounded Chinese citizens".
The attack started after a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina hotel in the port town of Kismayo before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went. The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group. The siege, which started on Friday, lasted for almost 12 hours and only ended on Saturday morning after clashes with security forces. At least four gunmen were gunned down during the encounter with forces.
The journalists who died in the cowardice extremist attack include noted Canadian scribe Hodan Nalayeh. Nalayeh's husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, also lost his life in the attack. Born in Somalia in 1976, Nalayeh 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.
Al-Shabaab fighters, who claimed responsibility for the attack, have been fighting for more than a decade now to topple the Somali government. The terrorist group emerged from Islamic Courts that once controlled central and southern Somalia and are variously estimated to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men.
In 2010, the Shabaab declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda. In 2011, they fled positions they once held in Mogadishu, and have since lost many strongholds. But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.