By Mohamed Olad Hassan
Authorities in Somalia say the death toll from Friday’s attack on a hotel in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo has climbed to 33.
Ahmed Mohamed Islan, also known as Madobe, the president of the Jubbaland regional administration, said another 56 people were wounded.
“Our valiant security forces have ended the hotel attack after long hours of battle with the evils, and eventually protected many innocent people who were holed up in their hotel rooms,” Madobe said in a statement.”
Madobe said “those killed in the attack included two journalists, a presidential candidate for upcoming regional elections, and a U.N. agency staff member. He said “Kenyans, Americans, a Briton, Tanzanians and a Canadian were among the dead”.
Security officials in Kismayo told VOA Somali that at least four militants who carried out the attack were also killed by security forces.
Hospital sources contacted by the VOA Somali Service reported the death of three more civilians caught in the cross fire.
Mohamed Ibrahim Mo’alimuu, general secretary of the Federation of Somali Journalists, said among the two journalists killed in the attack was, Hodan Naleyeh, a 43-year-old Somali-Canadian who is the founder of online service Integration TV. Her husband, politician Jama Farid, was also killed in the attack.
The other journalist, Mohamed Sahal Omar, was a reporter for a local SBC TV in the city.
“Naleyeh was a role model for Somali female journalists. In her recent TV episodes, she focused on the positive stories of the life in Somalia, female entrepreneurship, the country’s reconstruction process and the beauty of the motherland that is often ignored by the international media. Her death has saddened us,” said Mo’alimuu.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the attack, his spokesman said Friday.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has described the attack as “one of the wicked and the cowardly attacks by terrorists against Somali people.”
“We express our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the attack and wish a swift recovery to the injured,” Farmajo said in a statement.
“The attack shows how the enemy of the Somali people are willing to target innocent civilians regardless of where they are,” the president said.
The attack on Friday evening began when an explosives-laden car detonated at the front entrance of the Asasey Hotel, a popular meeting spot for regional officials and visitors from the diaspora. Militants then stormed inside and opened fire.
At the time the hotel was busy with meetings and a gathering by regional politicians and clan elders who were discussing a forthcoming regional election.
It took more than seven hours for security forces to end the hotel siege by cornering the militants before they were eventually killed.
The Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility. Al-Shabab frequently carries out bombings in the capital, Mogadishu, and other parts of Somalia against government, military and civilian targets.
The attack in Kismayo, about 485 kilometers south of Mogadishu, came amid preparations for regional elections. The port town once served as a major stronghold for al-Shabab militants.