Kismayo attack: At least 26 dead as gunmen storm Somali Hotel.

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At least 26 people, including a prominent journalist and several foreigners, were killed in an attack on a hotel in southern Somalia.

A suicide bomber rammed a car with explosives into the Asasey Hotel in Kismayo Harbor, and gunmen stormed the building.

Journalist Hodan Naleyah, 43, and her husband Farid were among the dead.

The Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed the attack, the worst Kismayo has suffered since its expulsion in 2012.

A local politician, three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans and a Brit were also killed, the authorities say.

How did the attack develop?

Regional politicians and clan elders were in the hotel discussing an upcoming regional election when the attack began.

Witnesses said they heard a large explosion before several heavily armed men came in.

“There is chaos inside, I have seen several bodies carried from the scene, and people are fleeing from nearby buildings,” said one witness, Hussein Muktar, during the attack.

It took 12 hours for the authorities to regain control of the hotel.

Regional President Ahmed Mohamed put the death toll at 26, injuring more than 50 people. Three attackers died in the attack, while one was captured.

Who were the victims?

Hodan Naleyah founded the media platform Integration TV to tell stories about life in Somalia and the Somali diaspora.

The latest episodes had focused on Somali women entrepreneurs and activities in the city of Las Anod.

She moved to Canada with her family at the age of six and became a figurehead of the Somali community. But the mother of two had recently returned to Somalia.

Tribute was paid to her, with BBC journalist Farhan Jimale calling her “a beautiful soul,” while Canada’s immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said she was a “voice for many.

The Somali journalist syndicate said that Nalayeh and another reporter, Mohamed Omar Sahal, were also killed in Kismayo and were the first journalists to be killed in the country this year.

How common is this kind of attack?

Somalia sees frequent militant attacks, but after al-Shabab was evicted from Kismayo, the port was relatively peaceful.

The militants regularly attacked the capital, Mogadishu, despite the strong presence of African Union peacekeepers and Somali troops trained in the USA.

Al-Shabab is linked to al-Qaida and remains a strong presence in rural Somalia.

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