7 dead in attack on Kenyan hotel; al-Shabab claims role in strike
Kenya’s national police chief Joseph Boinnet said the operation against the attackers was “still ongoing” and various offices have been secured in the area.Updated: Jan 16, 2019 07:00 IST
At least seven people were killed in a coordinated attack on a luxury hotel in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the complex.
The attack, claimed by the terror group al-Shabab, began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank while a suicide bomber blew up in the hotel lobby. Kenya’s national police chief Joseph Boinnet said the operation against the attackers was “still ongoing” and various offices have been secured in the area.
A witness said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance. He said other people were shouting for help and “when we rushed back to try rescue them, gunshots started coming from upstairs and we had to duck because they were targeting us and we could see two guys shooting.” Separately, rescue workers said two of the people they rushed to a local hospital were dead on arrival.
Al-Shabab, a Somalia-based Islamic extremist group, had carried out the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead.
“It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible,” said a man who ran from the scene, Charles Njenga.
As night fell, gunfire continued more than two hours after the first shots were heard at the complex, which includes the DusitD2 hotel, along with bars, restaurants, banks and offices and is in a well-to-do neighbourhood with large numbers of American, European and Indian expatriates. It was not clear how many attackers took part.
“We are aware that armed criminals are holing up in the hotel, and special forces are now currently flushing them out,” said police chief Joseph Boinnet, who gave no figures on the dead and wounded.
However, a Kenyan police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said “there was no time to count the dead.”
Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear.
The violence appeared to fit the pattern of attacks al-Shabbab often carries out in Somalia’s capital, with an explosion followed by a group of gunmen storming the place. Like the Westgate Mall attack, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners living in the country.
The attack came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial on charges they were involved in the Westgate Mall siege. A fourth suspect was freed for lack of evidence.
Tuesday’s violence left blood and glass all over. Several vehicles burned, sending black smoke rising over the complex. People were rushed, some carried, from the scene. Some ducked behind cars, screaming, while others took cover behind fountains and other features at the lush complex. Ambulances, security forces and firefighters converged along with a bomb disposal unit, and vehicles were cordoned off for fear they contained explosives. Police said they blew up a car that had explosives inside. An unexploded grenade was also seen in a hallway at the complex.