JUBBALAND (CBS) — Twenty-six people were killed, including at least one American and several other foreigners, when terrorists stormed and took over a hotel for more than 14 hours. Al-Shabaab, which is allied with al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. State Department confirmed at least one American was among the dead and said they are working with local authorities to determine if any other U.S. citizens were affected.
Ahmed Madobe, the president of Jubbaland regional state which controls Kismayo, said earlier Saturday there were two Americans among the dead, along with three Kenyans, three Tanzanians and a British citizen. A local politician and a Canadian-Somali journalist were also among the dead.
Fifty-six people were injured, officials said.
At least four al-Shabaab assailants attacked the Asasey Hotel Friday evening, beginning with a suicide car bomb at the entrance gate and followed by an assault by gunmen who stormed the hotel, which is frequented by politicians and lawmakers.
The attack lasted more than 14 hours before troops shot dead all attackers inside the hotel compound, Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer, told The Associated Press.
“There is chaos inside, I saw several dead bodies carried from the scene and people are fleeing from the nearby buildings,” one witness, Hussein Muktar, told BBC News during the attack.
Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, died in the attack, Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to AP.
“I’m absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people,” Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.
Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen mourned Hodan Nalayeh’s death on Twitter, saying she “highlighted the community’s positive stories and contributions in Canada” through her work as a journalist. “We mourn her loss deeply, and all others killed in the #KismayoAttack,” he wrote.
Nalayeh’s endless “positivity” and “love for people” was inspiring, said Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath on Twitter.
“In Ontario, Hodan launched IntegrationTV to tell the beautiful stories of the Somali Diaspora, and took that same humanity and love to her reporting and storytelling in Somalia. My thoughts are with her family, and the victims of the #Kismayo attack during this horrific time.”
A top official of the African Union condemned the attack.
“This is an attack meant to derail progress in Somalia as the country rebuilds and consolidates the gains made on peace and security,” said Francisco Madeira, special representative of the chairman of the African Union Commission. “Somalia has made tremendous progress in seizing territory and pushing out the terrorists from many places across the country.”
He said the African Union’s multinational force in Somalia will continue to work to stabilize the country.