A bomb and gun attack claimed by Al-Shabaab militants on a hotel in Somalia’s port city of Kismayo left several people dead Friday, security forces and witnesses said.
“Several people died and many more are injured but we don’t have the exact number of the fatalities so far because there is still a rescue operation going on,” said security official Abdiweli Mohamed.
A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the popular hotel in the southern town before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went, he said.
“The blast rocked the popular Medina hotel formerly known as Cascasey which is located in downtown Kismayo,” said Mohamed.
“Several gunmen entered and started shooting but the security forces responded quickly and engaged in a gunfight with the terrorists inside the building,” he added.
Witnesses said among those killed was a well-known social media activist, her husband and a local journalist.
“The blast was very big,” said witness Hussein Muktar.
“There is chaos inside, I saw several dead bodies carried from the scene and people are fleeing from the nearby buildings,” added Muktar.
“The relatives of a local journalist Mohamed Sahal confirmed his death and I’m getting that social media activist Hodan Naleye and her husband also died in the blast,” another witness, Ahmed Farhan, said.
Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.
“Mujahidin fighters carried out a martyrdom attack on one of the hotels accommodating the apostate officials of the Jubaland administration,” an autonomous southern zone in the troubled country whose main city is Kismayo, the group said.
According to several sources, most of those staying in the hotel were politicians and traders ahead of upcoming regional elections.