Reuters MOGADISHU/GAROWE (Reuters) — Kenyans, Americans, a Briton and Tanzanians were among 26 people killed when Islamist gunmen stormed a hotel in the Somali port city of Kismayo, officials said on Saturday, the deadliest attack in the city since insurgents were driven out in 2012.
A car bomb exploded at the hotel in the southern port city while local elders and lawmakers were meeting on Friday night, before three gunmen stormed in, police said. Security forces took 11 hours to end the siege, they said.
The dead included a presidential candidate for August’s Jubbaland regional elections, Jubbaland state president Ahmed Mohamed Madobe said. At least two journalists and a U.N. agency staff member were also reported to have been killed.
Al Qaida-linked Islamist group al Shabaab, which is trying to topple Somalia’s weak, U.N.-backed government, immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, said militants killed 30 people, while four al Shabaab fighters had also died. The jihadist group and government officials tend to give differing casualty figures for attacks.
Regional president Madobe said three Kenyans, one Briton, two Americans and three Tanzanians were among those killed.
“Four militants attacked the hotel. One of them was the suicide car bomber, two were shot dead and one was captured alive by Jubbaland security forces,” he said, adding that 56 people were wounded in the attack, including two Chinese. Police had earlier said all the attackers were killed.
Kismayo is the commercial capital of Jubbaland, a region still partly controlled by al Shabaab, whose fighters frequently carry out bombings in Somalia and neighboring Kenya, whose troops form part of an African Union peacekeeping force.
Britain’s foreign ministry said it was in touch with local authorities for information about the Kismayo attack. A U.S. State Department official confirmed that at least one U.S. citizen was among the dead.
Kismayo resident Osman Nur told Reuters the explosion destroyed parts of the hotel and nearby businesses and security forces were deployed across the city. TV footage showed walls peppered with bullet holes and furniture strewn across the hotel courtyard.
Halima Nur, a mother of four, said by phone that her nephew who worked at the hotel was killed. “I got his dead body this morning and have just buried him,” she said. “And this afternoon I will attend the burial of other relatives.”Speech