At least 12 people including a prominent Canadian-Somali journalist have been killed in an attack on a hotel in southern Somalia.
A suicide bomber rammed a car containing explosives into the Asasey hotel in the port of Kismayo, and gunmen then stormed the building
Journalist Hodan Naleyah and her husband are thought to be among the dead.
Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed the attack.
Regional politicians and clan elders were inside the hotel discussing a forthcoming regional election at the time of the attack.
Witnesses said they heard gunfire inside the hotel soon after the car bomb went off.
Authorities later said the attack was over, with four gunmen killed.
Local media outlets and a Somali journalists association said Nalayeh, 43, and her husband Farid were among the dead.
BREAKING: Inspirational TV personality who returned from Canada to report positive stories about Somalia, Hodan Nalayeh, killed in Al-Shabaab complex attack in Kismayo – Minister @JustAwHirsi confirms. Hodan was the founder of @IntegrationTV that reports on local and diaspora. pic.twitter.com/cjRQ2TPflg
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) July 12, 2019
Nalayeh founded the media platform Integration TV to tell stories about life in Somalia and in the Somali diaspora.
Recent episodes had focused on Somalia’s female entrepreneurs and things to do in the city of Las Anod.
She moved to Canada with her family when she was six years old and went on to become a figurehead of the Somali community there. But the mother of two had recently returned to Somalia.
BBC journalist Farhan Jimale described her as “a beautiful soul”.
I’m saddened by the death of my dear friend the Somali Canadian journalist, Hodan Nalayeh, who was among those killed in today’s attack in #Kismaayo. She was a bright star & a beautiful soul that represented the best of her people & homeland #Somalia at all times. RIP sister. pic.twitter.com/DGkEcTPED4
— Farhan Jimale (@farhanjimale) July 12, 2019
The Somali Journalists Syndicate said that Nalayeh and another reporter also killed in Kismayo, Mohamed Omar Sahal, were the first journalists to be killed in the country this year.
Security official Abdi Dhuhul told AFP news agency that a former local administration minister and a lawmaker were also among the dead.
Militant group al-Shabab was driven out of Kismayo in 2012, and the port has been relatively peaceful in recent years – unlike many other places in southern and central Somalia.
The militants have been carrying out more frequent attacks in the capital Mogadishu, despite the heavy presence of African Union peacekeepers and US-trained Somali troops.