Dozens dead after Somali forces end hotel siege

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By Associated Press and Linda Givetash and Reuters  with NBC News World News
Dozens dead after Somali forces end hotel siege

MOGADISHU, Somalia — More than two dozen people were killed in an attack on a hotel in Somalia, local authorities said Saturday.

At least 26 people were killed, including a prominent Canadian-Somali journalist and several foreigners, after Somali forces ended an all-night siege on the hotel in the southern port city of Kismayo, officials said.

Those killed include three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans, one Canadian and one Briton, said Ahmed Madobe, the president of Jubbaland regional state which controls Kismayo.

Fifty-six people, including two Chinese, were injured in the hotel attack, he told reporters.

Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack. NBC News has not verified their claim.

At least four al-Shabab assailants attacked the Asasey Hotel Friday evening, beginning with a suicide car bomb at the entrance gate and followed by an assault by gunmen who stormed the hotel, which is frequented by politicians, patrons and lawmakers.

The attack lasted more than 14 hours before troops shot dead all attackers inside the hotel compound, Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer, told The Associated Press.

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Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, died in the attack, Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to AP.

"I'm absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people," Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.

Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.

Al-Shabab, which is allied to al Qaeda, often uses car bombs to infiltrate heavily fortified targets like the hotel in Kismayo, which has been relatively quiet in recent years.

Thousands of al-Shabab fighters operate in the country, controlling areas to the center and south, while a small presence of fighters linked to Islamic State operate in the north.

As of January, U.S. Africa Command said the Pentagon had about 500 personnel in Somalia, including troops, civilians and contractors. The U.S. has carried out a campaign of airstrikes in recent years targeting militant training camps and al-Shabab leaders.

However,senior U.S. officials have told NBC News there are plans to scale back the military's role in the country as part of President Donald Trump's agenda to cut the number of troops deployed around the world.