Thursday 21 February 2019

Kenya police detain nine in connection with deadly hotel attack

A Kenya Air Force helicopter flies over the hotel complex (Ben Curtis/AP)
A Kenya Air Force helicopter flies over the hotel complex (Ben Curtis/AP)

Humphrey Malalo

Kenya has detained nine suspects in connection with an attack by a Somali group on a Nairobi hotel and office complex that killed 21 people, a police officer said on Friday, showing the search for possible accomplices in the raid is gathering pace.

The officer, who asked not to be named, also told Reuters police were pursuing a woman suspected of ferrying weapons to Nairobi from Kiunga, near the border with neighbouring Somalia, via the port city of Mombasa.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday that a 20-hour siege had ended with security forces killing five militants who had stormed the hotel complex, forcing hundreds of people into terrifying escapes.

Five suspects, one of them listed as a Canadian citizen, were taken to a magistrates court on Friday and ordered detained for 30 days to complete investigations that were "complex and transnational", court documents said.

The fate of the other four suspects who the police officer said were being held was not immediately clear. Police can hold suspects for 24 hours and need a court order to extend this.

Al Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate fighting to impose strict Islamic law, said it carried out the assault on the upscale dusitD2 compound over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Kenya, the East African hub for multinational companies and the United Nations, became a frequent target for al Shabaab after Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to try to create a buffer zone along its border.

Of the five suspects presented to court, four were men and one was a woman. Court documents said two of them were taxi drivers and one was a mobile phone financial services agent.

"I am satisfied that there is probable cause to continue with investigations against all the suspects," Noordin Haji, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement.

Sixteen Kenyans including a policeman, an American survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States, and a British development worker were among the dead in the hotel 14 Riverside Drive complex attack.

Images of the bloodied bodies of five attackers were broadcast across social media as Kenyatta announced the end of the siege, which echoed a 2013 al Shabaab assault that killed 67 people in the Westgate shopping centre in the same district.

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