At least 26 people were killed and 56 wounded in the attack by Islamist Shebab militants at a hotel in the port city of Kismayo, southern Somalia, after a siege that lasted nearly 12 hours and ended Saturday morning. Among the victims is a Somali-Canadian journalist whose death caused a stir.
Shebab claim assault
The attack began late Friday afternoon when a car bomb exploded at the entrance to the Medina, a busy hotel in central Kismayo, according to security sources. Gunmen then entered the building, where they clashed with the security forces present. The shebab, who claimed the assault, reproduced there a scheme that they used to use in the capital Mogadishu. "Twenty-six people were killed in the attack and 56 were wounded, including foreigners: three Kenyans, one Canadian, one British, two Americans and three Tanzanians, and two wounded Chinese citizens." Ahmed Madobe, president of the semi-autonomous region of Jubaland, told a press conference.
AFP was able to confirm with their family that at least four of these people had dual nationality. It could also be the case of others, except the two Chinese. The siege ended Saturday early in the morning. "The security forces now have control (of the hotel), the last terrorist was killed," a local security official, Abdiweli Mohamed told AFP. "We believe that four armed men were involved in the attack and the toll could escalate."
The hotel is "in ruins"
According to witnesses, the hotel was largely destroyed by the explosion and the bursts of bullets. "The whole building is in ruins, there are dead bodies and wounded who have been recovered inside, and the security forces have cordoned off the whole area," said a witness, Muna Abdirahman. "The attackers are wearing Somali police uniforms and are transporting their dead bodies outside at this very moment." Another security official, Abdi Dhuhul, confirmed Friday evening with AFP the death of a former minister of local administration and a deputy. According to several local sources, the hotel housed mainly businessmen and politicians who were in town to prepare for the election of the president of Jubaland, scheduled for late August.
The Shebab, who have repeatedly carried out such operations in Mogadishu, claimed in a statement the attack against the "apostate officials of the administration of Jubaland". They were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 and the Shebab then lost most of their strongholds. But they still control large rural areas from which they carry out guerrilla operations and suicide bombings, including in the capital, against government, security or civilian objectives.
"Sad day for journalists"
Affiliated with al-Qaeda, they vowed the loss of the Somali government, backed by the international community and the 20,000-strong African Union force in Somalia (Amisom). The Somali Syndicate of Journalists (SJS) announced in a statement the death in this attack of two journalists, Mohamed Omar Sahal and Hodan Naleyeh. "This is another sad day for Somali journalists," said Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, secretary general of the SJS.
According to the SJS, they are the first two journalists killed this year in Somalia. Hodan Naleyeh, whose husband is also said to have been killed according to a witness, had recently returned to Somalia after having lived in Canada for a long time. Of Somali and Canadian nationality, she was recognized in the diaspora of her home country for her work for the peace and unity of Somalia on social networks, where her death provoked a strong emotion.
The Jubaland region and Kismayo had been for four years from 2008 a shebab stronghold, which was drawing substantial revenue from the port. The city was taken over in 2012 by local militias backed by Kenyan forces. The port, located about 500 km southwest of Mogadishu, and the surrounding Jubaland region are now run by a local government affiliated with the Somali federal authorities. After losing control of Kismayo, the Shebab had continued to launch attacks against the Somali army and Amisom forces in the area. But this is the first time they have carried out such an operation in the city.