At least 26 people has been confirmed dead and 56 injured in a suicide bomb and gun attack claimed by Al-Shabaab militants on a popular hotel in southern Somalia.
According to authorities, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina hotel in the port town of Kismayo on Friday before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went.
The siege lasted for almost 12 hours and only ended on Saturday morning after clashes with security forces.
President Ahmed Mohamed Islam of the semi-autonomous Jubaland region told the press that three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans, one British and one Canadian were among the 26 people killed in the attack.
“There are also two wounded Chinese citizens,” he added.
“The security forces are in control now and the last terrorist was shot and killed”, Mohamed Abdiweli, a security official, said.
“There are dead bodies and wounded people strewn inside the hotel,” Abdiweli said.
He said authorities believed four gunmen, who one witness described as wearing Somali police uniforms, were involved in the attack.
Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-linked group, claimed responsibility for the siege describing it as “a martyrdom attack”
The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Al-Shabaab.
Witnesses said among those killed were a well-known social media activist and a local journalist.
“The relatives of local journalist Mohamed Sahal confirmed his death and I’m getting that social media activist HodanNaleyeh and her husband also died in the blast,” witness Ahmed Farhan said.
The Somali journalists’ union SJS confirmed the reporters’ deaths. “It is a very sad day for Somalian journalists,” the union’s secretary-general Ahmed Mumin said in a statement