8 dead in Somalia as militants attack port hotel

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Eight people were killed after militants stormed a hotel in the Somali port city of Kismayo, an attack that began with a suicide bombing on Sunday before gunmen forced their way in and traded shootings with the security forces.

The extremist Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its fighters entered the Tawakal hotel.

Security forces in Jubaland state in southern Somalia later ended the siege, killing the gunmen and saving dozens, state media reported.

There has been no official word on casualties, but a doctor at Kismayo hospital told The Associated Press that eight people died, four of whom were security personnel.

At least 41 people were injured in the attack, the doctor said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release such information.

Journalists were prevented from approaching the scene of the attack. Footage shared on social media shows ambulances picking up the injured outside the hotel in central Kismayo.

The city is located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The attack began when a car driven by a suicide bomber slammed into the hotel’s front door and then exploded, policeman Abshir Omar said by phone. A number of small businesses along the street were destroyed.

Some government officials and traditional elders were having lunch at the hotel at the time of the blast, he said.

Mohamed Nasi Guled, a senior Jubaland police official, said three assailants entered the hotel premises.

The hotel is popular as a meeting place for government officials. Al-Shabab is said to have a strong presence in the vicinity of Kismayo, the largest city and commercial capital of Jubaland.

Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, regularly carries out attacks in the Horn of Africa nation. Many of the group’s attacks target popular hotels.

Al-Shabab opposes the federal government based in Mogadishu, which it sees as a puppet of foreign governments. The group also opposes the presence of foreign troops in Somalia.

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