At least seven people have been killed in an attack on a hotel in southern Somalia, officials and survivors say.

They say a suicide bomber rammed a car with explosives into the Asasey hotel in the port of Kismayo, and gunmen then stormed the building.

Regional politicians and clan elders were inside the hotel. Among those killed were popular TV journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, reports say.

The Islamist group Al Shabab later said it carried out Friday’s attack.

Gunfire was heard inside the hotel soon after the car bomb went off.

It was not immediately clear whether the attackers were still in the building.

Security official Abdi Dhuhul told AFP that a former local administration minister and a lawmaker were among the dead.

Local media outlets and a Somali journalists association said that Hodan Naleyeh – a Canadian-Somali who had reportedly recently returned to the country – and her husband Farid were among those killed in the attack.

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Hodan Nalayeh had set up a popular online TV channel covering Somalia as well as life in the Somali diaspora.

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.

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.

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– BBC