KISMAYO, SOMALIA – A prominent Canadian Somali journalist who was among 27 people killed in a terrorist attack in Somalia’s southern port city of Kismayo Saturday is being celebrated for her efforts to change the narrative about her country.
Hodan Nalayeh dedicated her life to telling stories about Somalia that focused on more than just the civil war that has gripped the country since 1991.
Nalayeh was killed in the assault on the Asasey hotel that began with a suicide bomber ramming a car packed with explosives and continued with a long gun battle, leaving 27 people dead and 56 injured.
Her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, was also killed in the attack, according to a statement posted by her family on her Facebook page.
“Hodan leaves behind her two children, 11 siblings and beloved parents,” the statement said.
“She spent her life devoted to serving the Somali people and reporting on positive, uplifting stories. Her dedicated mission was to spread light and love to the Somali world through her work in journalism. She died serving the Somali community everywhere and doing what she loved most. She brought inspiration and hope to the Somali people through storytelling. She will be deeply missed.”
Amal Nalayeh, who lives in Canada, told NBC News that she spoke with her sister just half an hour before she was killed in the attack.
“It took us a while to find out they took her to the hospital, I think she was alive,” Nalayeh said. “All she was saying was, ‘my children, my children, my children.’”
Hodan Nalayeh had two sons, aged 9 and 7.
Amal Nalayeh described her sister as “an unbelievable person” who will be missed.
“[Her death is a] big loss, big loss to the Somali people, especially the youth,” she said. “They loved her back home, all over the world. Everybody is crying for her.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Hodon Nalayeh for “inspiring Somali stories” and “broadening people’s perspectives and defending diversity and inclusion.”
“Her loss is deeply felt in Canada, and in Somali and journalistic communities around the world,” Trudeau said in a statement. “Canada strongly condemns this heinous attack and will continue working with Somalia and other international partners to address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism.”