US and British citizens are among 15 killed in Nairobi terror attack

Africa
By AFP , Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Staff at a Nairobi morgue said the bodies of 11 Kenyans, an American and a Briton had been identified as gunfire continued on Wednesday morning.

Fifteen people have died in an Islamist attack on an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenyan police sources said Wednesday, as fresh explosions and gunfire rang out in the siege which stretched into its second day. Rescue operations continued around the clock overnight to free workers still trapped inside the hotel.

Security forces worked throughout the night to secure the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, spa, restaurant, and office buildings after an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab Islamists on Tuesday afternoon.

Staff at a Nairobi morgue said the bodies of 11 Kenyans, an American and a Briton had been identified. The identity of the remaining two victims still needs to be determined as they were not carrying their passports on them.

At least one suicide bomber blew himself up at the hotel while gunmen sprayed fire before engaging security forces and holding themselves up at the premises as civilians fled or barricaded themselves in their offices awaiting rescue.

“We have 15 people dead as of now and that includes foreigners,” a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Among the dead was an American citizen, a State Department official said.

A second police source confirmed the toll but warned: “there are areas not yet accessed but that’s what we know so far.”

After 12 hours trapped inside the complex, a group of dozens of people was freed at 3:30 am (1230GMT), according to an AFP journalist at the scene, followed by fresh gunfire and a detonation.

“We still believe there are two or three attackers in specific locations,” the first police officer said. “The situation is far from over.”

The second police officer said that at one point they had been sure the attackers had been neutralized after a long period without shooting, however, gunfire resumed again after 2 am.

Further explosions and gunfire were heard shortly before dawn, with no official word on how many people were still trapped inside.

“There is a floor where they are shooting from, we still believe there are people there,” he said, after reports that a large number of people had fled upstairs.

Gunshots rang out sporadically as night fell in Nairobi, where police combed the hotel and outlying office buildings for survivors while trying to flush out the attackers.

The attack at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, restaurant, and office buildings housing local and international companies, began at 3 pm (1200 GMT) with a massive explosion heard five kilometers (three miles) away at the AFP bureau.

The Al-Qaeda linked Somalian group Al-Shabaab, which carried out a notorious assault on a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013, claimed responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities.

“We can now confirm that this criminal activity commenced at about three o’clock in a coordinated fashion and began at I&M Bank with an explosion that targeted three vehicles in the parking lot, and a suicide explosion in the foyer of Dusit hotel,” said Kenyan police chief Joseph Bonnet.

He said “a number of guests suffered serious injuries” but did not give a figure for fatalities.

An AFP photographer saw the bodies of five dead, slumped over tables on a restaurant terrace in the complex. An official at the MP Shah hospital in Nairobi told Citizen TV that seven wounded had been admitted, one of whom had died.

Meanwhile, a police source, who asked not to be named, said he had seen as many as 14 dead.

Elite police forces evacuated terrified workers barricaded in offices for up to seven hours after the explosion, which was followed by an hour of sustained gunfire.

A number of heavily armed foreign forces, who appeared to be from embassies based in Nairobi, were at the scene alongside Kenyan security officers.

It was unclear how many people were still hiding inside office buildings or the hotel, owned by Thailand’s giant Dusit Thani Group.

“I can now report we have secured all the buildings … we are in the final stages of mopping up the area,” said Interior Minister Fred Matiangi.

Simon Crump, who works in the complex, said terrified workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after “several” explosions.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told AFP a few hours before he was also evacuated.

One survivor evacuated from the building, speaking to a local television station, said the attackers were: “very confident they were people who knew what they were doing”.

‘A flash and a bang’
John Maingi said there had been “a flash of lights and a loud bang” at the Secret Garden restaurant where he works.

“When I peeped outside I saw a human leg which has been cut off. We hid in the room and then some police officers rescued us,” he said.

Shortly after the attack began flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the parking lot where several cars where ablaze.

Police sirens echoed through the city and two helicopters buzzed overhead while ambulances with flashing lights lined up outside the hotel.

A private security guard at the scene told AFP he had seen four “gangsters” entering the compound.

An AFP reporter saw a bomb disposal squad blow up a car which they said the attackers had driven to the complex.

Al-Shabaab

The attack at DusitD2 is the first in Nairobi since gunmen stormed the city’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing at least 67 people. The attack and ensuing siege lasted around four days.

That assault was also claimed by Somalia’s Shabaab, who have been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu since 2007.

The Westgate attack resulted in many upscale establishments and shopping centres in the capital — including the Dusit — putting up strict security barriers checking vehicles and pedestrians.

The Shabaab targeted Kenya after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the jihadist group.

On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

In its statement, the Shabaab noted the attack came exactly three years after its fighters overran a Kenyan military base in Somalia.

“This attack on Nairobi hotel came as Kenyans and their media are commemorating (the) El Adde attack,” it said.

The Shabaab claimed more than 200 soldiers died in that assault, while the government has refused to give its own toll or disclose details.

Earlier

At least three people were reportedly killed in an ongoing attack claimed by militant group Al Shabaab on the Dusit Hotel in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

An urgent appeal for blood has been made by Avenue Hospital in Parklands after a number of those injured were rushed to a hospital. Other hospitals are expected to follow suit.

The incident involving several explosions and an exchange of gunfire began earlier in the afternoon in the Westland district of the capital which also houses a bank and a number of offices. Local television showed smoke rising from a compound in the district of the city.

A huge blast followed by a gun battle rocked an upmarket hotel and office complex in Nairobi on Tuesday, causing casualties.

The explosion at the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, restaurant and several office buildings housing local and international companies, was heard from AFP’s bureau some five kilometres (three miles) away.

The Shabaab, which carried out a notorious assault on a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013, claimed responsibility, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities.

AFP reporters at the scene saw wounded people being evacuated but said the full casualty toll was unknown. Occasional shots were being heard nearly four hours after the blast.

Simon Crump, who works in the complex, said terrified workers barricaded themselves inside their offices after “several” explosions.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told AFP.

He later said that police had begun evacuating people from the office buildings.

A reporter at the scene said gunmen and security forces exchanged heavy gunfire.

AFP reporters at the scene saw wounded people being evacuated but said the full casualty toll was unknown. Occasional shots were being heard nearly four hours after the blast.

Simon Crump, who works in the complex, said terrified workers barricaded themselves inside their offices after “several” explosions.

“We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions,” he told AFP.

He later said that police had begun evacuating people from the office buildings.

A reporter at the scene said gunmen and security forces exchanged heavy gunfire. 

“We are aware that there are armed criminals still holed up and our officers are trying to flush them out,” said Inspector General of police Joseph Bonnet.

‘A flash and a bang’

John Maingi said there had been “a flash of lights and a loud bang” at the Secret Garden restaurant where he works.

“When I peeped outside I saw a human leg which has been cut off. We hid in the room and then some police officers rescued us,” he said.

Police sirens echoed through the city and a helicopter buzzed overhead.

A private security guard at the scene told AFP he had seen four “gangsters” entering the compound.

“There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire,” whispered another man working at the compound, asking not to be named.

“All police teams have been dispatched to the scene where the incident is. As at now, we are treating it as anything, including the highest attack,” police spokesman Charles Owino said by phone.

“All police teams including anti-terror officers are at the scene,” he said.

An AFP reporter saw a bomb disposal squad blow up a car which they said had been used by the attackers to arrive at the complex.

Flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the parking lot where several cars where ablaze. Scores of people fled the scene, some of them injured.

Meanwhile, the vast upscale Village Market shopping centre in northern Nairobi said on Twitter that it had closed temporarily as a “security precaution.”

Al-Shabaab

The scenes at DusitD2 were reminiscent of an attack in 2013 when gunmen stormed the city’s Westgate shopping mall, killing at least 67 people.

That assault was also claimed by Somalia’s Shabaab, which have been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2007.

Kenya suffered a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the jihadist group.

On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.

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