It took 11 hours before security forces ended the all-night siege.
Militant gunmen killed 26 people, including Kenyans, Americans, a Briton and Tanzanians, when they stormed a hotel in Somalia’s southern port city of Kismayo, a regional state president said on Saturday, the deadliest day in the city since insurgents were driven out in 2012.
A car bomb exploded at the hotel where local elders and lawmakers were having a meeting on Friday night, and then three gunmen stormed in, police said. It took 11 hours before security forces ended the all-night siege, police officer Major Mohamed Abdi told Reuters.
The dead included a presidential candidate for August’s regional elections, Jubbaland state president Ahmed Mohamed Madobe said in a statement. At least two journalists and a UN agency staff member were also reported to have been killed.
Al Qaeda-linked group al Shabaab immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, said on Saturday the militants had killed 30 people and four al Shabaab fighters had also been killed. The militant group and government officials tend to give differing casualty figures for attacks.
Regional president Madobe said three Kenyans, one Briton, two Americans and three Tanzanians were among those killed.
“Among the dead was also a Jubbaland presidential candidate named Shuuriye. Four militants attacked the hotel. One of them was the suicide car bomber, two were shot dead and one was captured alive by Jubbaland security forces,” he said.
He said 56 people were wounded in the attack, including two Chinese citizens.
Police had said earlier all the attackers had been killed.
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement it was in touch with local authorities seeking more information. U.S. authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kismayo resident Osman Nur told Reuters the explosion had destroyed huge parts of the hotel and nearby businesses and security forces were deployed all over the city. TV footage showed walls peppered with bullet holes and furniture strewn across the hotel courtyard.
Another anguished resident said she lost relatives in the attack.
“I have been looking for the whereabouts of my nephew who worked at the hotel. I got his dead body this morning and have just buried him,” Halima Nur, a mother of four, told Reuters by phone.
“And this afternoon I will attend the burial of other relatives.”