Death toll in Somalia hotel attack rises to 26, including foreigners

The death toll from Somalia’s Kismayu hotel attack on Friday has risen to 26, including Kenyans, Americans, a Briton and Tanzanians, Jubbaland region’s president said on Saturday.

A presidential candidate for upcoming regional elections was also killed in the attack, carried out by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, Jubbaland president Ahmed Mohamed said in a statement.

Police in Kismayu had earlier put the toll at 13.

Members of the al-Qaeda linked group stormed the hotel after targeting it with a car bomb on Friday while local elders and lawmakers were meeting to discuss approaching regional elections.

Earlier, a witness said, “the operation was concluded at 7am. We know at least 14 people died including journalists and (local election)candidates. These are the prominent people. The death toll is sure to rise,” local elder Ahmed Abdulle said.

A journalists’ group had confirmed on Friday that two journalists were among the dead; Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Naleyah, the founder of Integration TV, and Mohamed Sahal Omar, reporter of SBC TV in Kismayu.

Separately, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, general secretary of the Federation of Somali Journalists, said in a statement: “We are saddened and outraged by this loss of life, and condemn in the strongest possible terms this appalling massacre.”

Kismayu is the commercial capital of Jubbaland, a region of southern Somalia still partly controlled by al Shabaab. Al Shabaab remains a major security threat, with fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, whose troops form part of the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force that helps defend the Somali government.

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